PTAs, state school districts sue state for under-funding California's education system

Pleasanton PTA joins in statewide effort to solve worsening financial woes

A group of individuals, state education associations, and school districts throughout California announced Thursday that they have filed a lawsuit against the state claiming the current education financial system is unconstitutional.

They are requesting that the state be required to establish a new financial system that provides districts with adequate resources to meet the academic goals set by the state.

"This lawsuit is a last resort," said Frank Pugh, president of the California School Board Association. The lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

Pugh added that both the governor and the state Legislature have failed to act on this issue despite the abundance of evidence suggesting it should be a priority for the state.

Plaintiffs in the case include a number of Bay Area representatives, including both the Alameda and San Francisco county school districts. The lead plaintiff in the case, Maya Robles-Wong, is an 11th-grade student at Alameda High School.

Sixty other individuals are named as plaintiffs in the suit, along with nine school districts, the California School Board Association, the Association of California School Administrators and the California State PTA.

The suit has received some funding from the various associations involved, but law firms up and down the state, such as the Stanford Youth & Education Law Clinic, have been working on the case pro-bono.

The complaint claims that the state has cut nearly $17 billion from education in recent years, and that Proposition 98 - which was supposed to protect the state's education funding - has failed to solve worsening financial woes.

"Sadly, these cuts are just the tip of the iceberg," said Pugh.

In 2008-2009, California was ranked 44th in the country for

student spending, dishing out roughly $2,131 less than the national average per pupil, per year, according to the complaint. In comparison, New York spent about $6,000 more per pupil, and Rhode Island and Vermont each spent double the amount that California spent per pupil.

The complaint cites a long list of dismal statistics as evidence that these economic deficiencies are having a detrimental impact on achievement. For instance, fewer than 70 percent of California students graduate from high school, half are proficient in English language arts, and less than half are proficient in math. Statistics worsen for disadvantaged students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

"The governor will oppose this lawsuit and believes the state will prevail," said Bonnie Reiss, California's Secretary of Education, 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 times," she said.

California currently ranks among the lowest in the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, taking 49th in student-teacher ratios, 48th in total school staff, 49th in guidance counselors, and 50th in librarians.

"The time for patience has passed," said Jo A.S. Loss, president of the California state PTA.

"We must have a school finance system that allows schools to deliver a high-quality education for all children - in good times and in tough times," she said.

She said that California's constitution requires a school system that prepares students to become informed citizens and productive members of society. The state has set clear requirements for what schools must teach and what students must learn. The state has an obligation to provide the resources necessary to meet the required standards, but the state has failed to do so.

This lawsuit seeks to remedy the broken school finance system by (1) declaring that it is unconstitutional and (2) requiring state lawmakers to uphold their constitutional duty to design and implement a school finance system that provides all students equal access to the required educational program. The group's statement said.

For more information on the lawsuit and to read the complete complaint, visit

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Like this comment
Posted by Maja7
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 21, 2010 at 9:17 am

What took them so long? California schools have been "underfunded" for years in comparison to other schools! With the additional pressure/needs that immigrants (legal and illegal) place on our schools/teachers, etc. Do they think they will accomplish anything? Or is it just to get us, parents & the community, off their backs about the constant flow of fundraisers/requested donations? Or is it letting us think that they are finally concerned about the sub-standard funding our public eduational system has been operating under? Or, is it that the parents' pockets are now empty and they have no other option but go back to the State?

Whatever the reason, you can't get blood from a stone. Nice to know that the "deep pockets" of the California PTA, which have enough money to contribute to political campaigns, won't be affected. Thank goodness lawyers and legal experts, some not all, will be volunteering their time, etc. That's just what we need...more litigation....

Like this comment
Posted by tax revolt 2
a resident of Country Fair
on May 21, 2010 at 9:59 am

tax revolt 2 is a registered user.

And who is suing the parents who are responsible for the majority of the failing results of kids listed in the lawsuit? Or does everyone really believe that it is the school system that causes the >30% dropout rate, etc.? The abandonment of parental responsibility and overshelming entitlement thinking in this lawsuit is outright depressing and does not bode well for the next generations. Or is the real intent of this lawsuit to create a basis for dedicating a greater percentage of the state budget allocated to education? And then ultimately to raise taxes/revenues in order to pay for it? There is so much in this lawsuit that is just plain wrong.

Like this comment
Posted by Clueless
a resident of Birdland
on May 21, 2010 at 10:01 am

WOW! What a surprise...who else can we blame?

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Silliness
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 21, 2010 at 10:06 am

So... where exactly do they think the state would GET the money, even if they won? The economy is lousy. Everyone's cutting back. It's the same song and dance it's been for a year or two now. I don't get this mentality. As soon as we boot every single illegal from schools and deny them FREE benefits, we'll talk about this. Until then, this is just stupid.

Like this comment
Posted by Well Said!
a resident of Country Fair
on May 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Well said, Maya 7!

I find it offensive that someone's response on here was "who else can be blame?". How in the world can you not agree with school districts and the PTA when California brings in more money than any other state (CA would be the 6th richest nation in the world), and yet we are bottom in spending on education? And Tea Partiers, don't get ridiculous and tell me it's the illegal immigrants fault. When my husband's company, one of the largest in the state, is based in Silicon Valley and yet has an address in the Bahamas to avoid state taxes, you KNOW the entire system is corrupt.

Like this comment
Posted by Budget
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 21, 2010 at 1:44 pm

We know it's not about allocating more to the education part of the budget...there wouldn't be anything left for anything else.
Do teacher 'pensions' come out of 'education'?

Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

We need such suits to force the politically unpopular work that needs to get done. While communities are passing parcel taxes in an attempt to band-aid the situation, the root of the problem is not being attacked by the State government. The big picture is California's poor education finance system. They get plenty of money. They just waste it when they're not aligning funding with goals. That is what this suit seeks to address.

Like this comment
Posted by Budget
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 21, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Until PUBLIC UNIONS (not firing bad teachers), and ILLEGALS are dealt with....NO MORE TAXES OR BUDGET ALLOTMENTS.
Not everybody should go to college or beyond community. Unions & remedial illegals, ESL bonus pay, suck $$ that could go to several types of SHOP classes, quality financial classes, helping honors achieve THEIR potential, etc. Most districts are not providing adequate basics.

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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 21, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Yes, Budget, teachers salary include pension payments come out of education...where do you think it comes from? But the state does not pay pensions, the teachers and the district both pay into the CalSTRS during employment and CalSTRS pays the pensions upon retirment (not the state). The state does kick in a little money annually, but does not directly pay for pensions. In the recent past, the state actually has borrowed money from the teacher pension (Cal STRS) to try to pay for other programs.

Like this comment
Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 21, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Budget - so are you ok with unions if they fire bad teachers? I'm not sure what your point would firing bad teachers help the budget situation?

Like this comment
Posted by Horace
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 22, 2010 at 1:51 am

letsgo ~ frankly your too dumb to understand any point made so just put a sock in it

Like this comment
Posted by Wow!
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 24, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Learn how to spell you're please before you make a comment about someone being dumb.

I'm curious how we can blame unions when other states who have unions find ways to fund their education. We bring in more money yet we don't fund our schools properly. It has nothing to do with unions and state pensions. Teachers do not get state pensions. In fact, teachers don't get social security as well.

How in the world can other states bring in less money and still be successful? Do people on this blog really think that the other 49 states do not have teacher unions?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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