Friday, May 21, 2010

Schools, students sue state over funding

This from SFGate:

More than 60 children and nine school districts across California filed a historic lawsuit Thursday, arguing that elected officials have failed in their constitutional obligation to support public schools.

The case has the potential to completely overhaul how, and how much, money flows into schools.

In short, the case seeks to force the state Legislature and governor to fix a broken education funding system - one that has failed to take into account what it actually costs to educate a child, plaintiffs' attorneys said.

The lawsuit would require Sacramento to fund schools based on what state law requires they offer to children - qualified teachers, books, physical education, science labs, special education, English language instruction and more.

"Education is a fundamental right to each child in this state," said William Abrams, a plaintiffs' attorney. "The problem is the state unbelievably has not determined the cost of the educational services it requires."

San Francisco and Alameda unified school districts are among the plaintiffs, as are several local schoolchildren, the California PTA, California School Boards Association and Association for California School Administrators.

Legal representation is pro bono, plaintiff attorneys said.

A last resort

In Sacramento, attorneys and representatives for school boards, school administrators and California families repeatedly called the lawsuit a last resort.

Billions of dollars have been cut from school budgets even as higher expectations are placed on students and school districts - namely the California High School Exit Exam, increasingly rigorous academic standards and standardized tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind laws.

"This lawsuit now is about saying we have specific education programs, let's figure out how to deliver it," said plaintiff attorney Abe Hajela.

The California case follows similar lawsuits across the country, many of which have resulted in courts setting significantly higher levels of school funding. About 70 percent of such "adequacy lawsuits" have succeeded, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In New York, for example, a lawsuit resulted in a judgment requiring the state to spend billions more on schools - nearly twice as much as California's $7,000 per student.

The California case, filed in Alameda Superior Court early Thursday, does not ask a judge to put a price tag on a public education here.

Instead, it would compel elected officials to scrap the current education funding system, which is based on a 1970s formula that doesn't take into account varying costs from district to district or even student to student, according to the lawsuit.

The suit names the state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as defendants.

"The governor will oppose this lawsuit and believes the state will prevail," said Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss in a statement. "The funding of public education in California has long been and continues to be a top priority of California, even in bad economic and budget times."

Read the full story.


  1. Long overdue! Another avenue of pressure for funding adequate to do the job.

  2. I read the article, but could barely get through the first page of comments. They were pretty hateful and vile.

  3. Something about the ability to comment anonymously online brings out a lot of that. There are a lot of angry nut jobs out of there. (In the era before Internets, my husband, a longtime Chronicle reporter with a Jewish last name, once got an anonymous postcard that just said "They should kill another 6 million of you.") Now we see those people tea-partying.

  4. Oh for good fun, go to the comments section of the "Donations and Fundraising" post, which disintegrates into unbelievable racism and immigrant bashing. It's not them out there, it's us. And woe betide anyone here who calls negative attention to the tea partiers!

    May the lawsuit win, though. It's about time.

  5. ok - I'm confused. Why haven't we heard of this before now? And secondly, why haven't we sued sooner (if there is a 70% chance we could win and it could result in double the school funding per child)?

    What am I missing here?

  6. Because the state has no money - that's why it is sued right now, and that's why it is pointless.

  7. No, it's not pointless. It creates the illusion of doing something.

  8. OK, so it makes a point being pointless.

  9. If the lawsuit prevails, the state has to get money from somewhere to satisfy the lawsuit no? The state can get money from other programs or from (god forbid) raising taxes.

    I don't see this lawsuit as pointless.

  10. The U.S. spends more money on education than any of the other 30 OECD countries. So where is the money going? And why are we (not only California) in such trouble? This is a legitimate question... if anyone has an answer I would like to understand what the disconnect is. Thanks.

  11. The disconnect is we want to be a welfare state without the welfare-state taxes. We want to have high standard education without pressure.

    And regarding money, no, it is difficult for the state to move money from somewhere else because most of the spending is mandated by the voters (thanks to our briiiiiliant initiative process). Yes, the state can increase the tax, but CA is already one of the highest taxed state.

    Whenever we face a financial crisis, prop 13 has to be discussed. It is a classic example of why democracy doesn't always work - voters vote for their own best interest and damage the interest of the whole.

  12. caroline,

    are you saying that tea party people are bigots? If you are i would think you are engaging in the same sort of broad brush behavior that defines prejudice.

  13. "Oh for good fun, go to the comments section of the "Donations and Fundraising" post, which disintegrates into unbelievable racism and immigrant bashing."

    Speaking out against illegal immigration and its costs to society is not racism.

  14. Speaking out against illegal immigration and its costs to society is not racism.

    Not per se, but there were posts over on that thread that were certainly racist. It is easy, in the real world, for opposition to out of status immigration to devolve into racism (and racial profiling). This is why critics of the Arizona law are concerned. You can say you are not going to use racial profiling in determining "reasonable suspicion" of undocumented status, but in the real world.....

    Same with Rand Paul and his philosophical libertarian concerns about the Civil Rights Act. He may be able to piece together a consistent theoretical argument about it, but that kind of leaves out the history of racially based human slavery in this country, followed by a century of Jim Crow.

    I think it was Justice Thurgood Marshall who talked about the constitution as a living document that had to be interpreted in light of real-world experience.

  15. While a few of the comments on the "fundraising" thread are racist, the majority [of the comments] point out that we are headed for trouble if Californians do not return to a sustainable no growth model. Every effort to reduce our environmental footprint will be wiped out if we continue to be overwhelmed by an exceptionally poor population who expect all of the trappings of a California lifestyle without any of the responsibilities.

    It remains that most of the population increase we have seen in California in the last 20 years is due to the immigration of Mexicans and Central Americans. The majority have entered the US illegally and through amnesty programs.

    Unlike legal immigrants, these populations bring few high demand skills or material wealth to the country. Yet, they want and expect all the trappings of a high consumption California lifestyle.

    Statistically speaking, the social needs of this population are high. Their ability to contribute to the tax base is low. The impact has been felt in the quality of our schools, in the availability of healthcare and human services, in increased infrastructure costs and in the ability to afford to maintain our wildlands.

    That is not a racist statement. It is a statement of reality which supported by statistical fact.

    Please do not use the name of Thurgood Marshall to justify an illegal and unjust action.

    As a rule, Californias are warmhearted and openhanded. However, that ability to be so is dependent on maintaining and managing our wealth and our way of life.

    Should we not do that, we will soon find that we have nothing left to be warmhearted with.

  16. While I agree with the general views of 5:16 I am not 5:16.

    The Federal immigration law allows agents to stop anybody at anytime and ask for their papers. For years Arizona has had stopchecks on lower Arizona roads. No one said a thing. Now that Arizona has passed a new law that is FAR LESS intrusive the the existent Federal law everyone is up in arms. It is purely partisan politics that is trying to portray it as a racially inspitred move to the right.

    We have laws and borders like every other country in the world. The difference is that we don't uphold them. We should be heavily fining individuals who unlawfully hire illegal aliens. Even the term aliens is no longer acceptible to the left. But most countries use that term because they want to distinguish between a person who has lawfully immigrated and unlawful immigration. One may leave a country for very good reasons, but it he enters unlawfully this makes a mockery of those that took the time and effort to lawfully enter.

  17. "Long overdue! Another avenue of pressure for funding adequate to do the job."

    Ya right! That's the answer to America's inability to pay its's bills - a lawsuit. It is pathetic how little people on the left seem to understand how America has always paid its bills - through hard work, ingenuity, perserverance and relatively low taxation to spur growth. The ONLY way to get out of the mess California is in is through GROWTH. You cannot "grow the economy", as Clinton used to say, by lawsuits and more taxes. We are already one of the highest taxed state in the nation. But I do agree that the exception to this is prop 13 with its massive loopholes and unbalanced structure.

  18. This is what SF K-File's ever popular contributor, Rachel Norton, had to say about the suit:

    "It’s very important to note that this district is incurring no legal costs (other than the staff time required on the part of the General Counsel and the Superintendent) for being a party to the lawsuit."

    No legal costs but the staff time? In other words, we are supposed to believe that because SFUSD won't be paying outside legal consultants like they usually do and will only be paying the normal salaries, that's OK. As if those substantial salaries somehow don't count. I wonder if teachers can take time of their duties to lobby for change?

    This is the kind of drivel that seems to regularly come out of Rachel's blog. I don't get it. Does she really think that because the Superintendent and the Legal Department are already employees of the district it is hunky dory to use their public service time in efforts that have nothing to do with the actual operations of SFUSD? Is that what we hire them for? I thought we had a fiscal crisis. It seems that the central office has plenty of time on its hands.

    There are public advocacy firms that do this sort of work. SFUSD and its employees are supposed to be running our district. I would think they would have their hearts in that work and would understand that others would need to take up the challenge of state and federal public policy change.

    As time goes on her pronouncements become more and more representative of an out of touch and insular politician.

  19. I can see a role for the Superintendent in advocating for change at the state level. But I do not condone using district resources to promote a politcal agenda, which is what suing the state does. It is an agenda that puts education funding before other funding, as does Prop 98. I had a choice to vote for or against it. It does not seem that I have a choice whether SFUSD sues the state and uses our education dollars to do it. This does not mean I do not support more education funding. The problem with the litigation crowd is this: When you sue for political change you undercut the voters. Californias voted for prop 13. Change prop 13.

  20. Hey, check out Rachels blog!

    Apparently 80 parents have been caught sending their kids to SF public schools who do not live in the city.

    I'll bet that's the tip of the iceberg.

    Speaking of suing, how about a law suit by all the parent who went 0/14 or 0/28 because the board has not been verifying addresses for the last umpteeth years.

    Yes, I'd like a refund for the $25,000 I dropped this year . . . and a spot at a decent school.

    Maybe the board could verify a few more addresses and save the newly opened spots for 0/14 and 0/28 parents.

    How about it, all you happily enrolled public school parents? How about spreading a little of the love?

    You want more public school funding. We want the spots that were stolen from us in the last two or three years.

  21. Oh, and how about all those parents that lied about their English language proficiency?

    Really, I'm tired of running into gloating parents at Lafayette or Sherman who barely speak . . . let's see, Hebrew! but wrote it on their form. Just how many Hebrew speakers do you know who are struggling with English?

    Maybe the SFUSD could check that out and free up some of those spots as well.

  22. Hey, just found this post on craigslist: