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 www.fixschoolfinance.org.