Historic Lawsuit Challenges California’s Unconstitutional Education Finance System
A historic lawsuit was filed today against the State of California requesting that the current education finance system be declared unconstitutional and that the state be required to establish a school finance system that provides all students an equal opportunity to meet the academic goals set by the State.
The case, Robles-Wong, et al. v. State of California, was filed in the Superior Court of California in Alameda County. Specifically, the suit asks the court to compel the State to align its school finance system—its funding policies and mechanisms—with the educational program that the State has put in place. To do this, plaintiffs allege, the State must scrap its existing finance system; do the work to determine how much it actually costs to fund public education to meet the state’s own program requirements and the needs of California’s school children; and develop and implement a new finance system consistent with Constitutional requirements.
The lawsuit was filed by a broad coalition, including more than 60 individual students and their families, nine school districts from throughout the State, the California School Boards Association (CSBA), California State PTA, and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).
“Filing this lawsuit was a last resort,” said CSBA President Frank Pugh. “Education funding has been in a deteriorating spiral in California for decades. A failure to act now threatens the future of California’s students and the future of our state. The Governor and lawmakers have known for some time that the current school finance system is harming students and they’ve done nothing to remedy the crisis. The $17 billion in cuts to education have only made a dire situation even worse. California’s unstable, unsound and insufficient school finance system is robbing our students of an education.”
“This lawsuit seeks to ensure that the State, the Legislature and the Governor comply with the Constitution and fund and deliver the promised education program to all students in the state,” said Bill Abrams, a partner at the law firm of Bingham McCutchen and counsel for plaintiff students and families. “The Constitution requires that school funding ‘first be set apart’ to meet program demands, and provides that education is a fundamental right and must be made equally available to every child. Too often, this isn’t the case, and the State balances its budget on the backs of its students by cutting or underfunding education programs, and thus prevents schools from meeting its own education standards.”
California’s broken school finance system has undermined the ability of districts to educate our children by making no connection between what is expected of schools and students and the funding provided in order to meet those expectations.