Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
School & District Management

ACLU, Calif. Settle Lawsuit Over Compton

By Robert C. Johnston — March 29, 2000 3 min read

The long-troubled Compton, Calif., schools moved a step closer to independence from state management last week as civil rights advocates and state officials settled a lawsuit claiming the district’s 31,000 students had been denied the opportunity to receive an adequate education.

In dropping the 1997 suit, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Sherman Oaks, Calif. law firm of Newman, Aaronson, Vanaman acknowledged improvements in school facilities and the classroom environment in recent years.

“For the first time in decades, the Compton school system receives passing marks when it comes to affording equal educational opportunity to its students,” said Mark Rosenbaum, the legal director of the ACLU of Southern California.

Compton was on the verge of bankruptcy when it was taken over by the state in 1993. It was also one of the lowest-achieving districts in California at the time.

The takeover, however, has been a frequent source of controversy for local residents, who resent the outside intervention.

Last week’s settlement, or consent decree, was approved by the state court overseeing the lawsuit. It did not specify new expenditures for the district, but instead legally binds the district and the state to provide students with such basics as functioning toilets, enough textbooks in core classes, and windows that are not broken.

The agreement also holds the school system responsible for putting certified teachers in every classroom, giving homework to students, and soliciting regular feedback from the community on its schools.

“If employees said tomorrow that ‘we can’t repair windows because we have no money,’ we have a court order to enforce it, which means funds must be obtained,” Mr. Rosenbaum said.

The settlement represented a major victory for Randolph E. Ward, the state administrator who was assigned to oversee Compton in 1996. “For the first time in 30 years, I think we have Compton back on the right road,” he said last week.

Improving Facilities

Observers point to signs that the situation in Compton will continue to improve. Within a year after the lawsuit was filed, an interim agreement was reached that secured textbooks for every student, as well as major improvements in district health and safety conditions.

More recently, the state approved the spending of more than $100 million in the district for facility improvements, which are scheduled to begin later this year.

Plans are now in the works for two new elementary schools, 22 modernization projects, and 14 additions to existing schools. “Next year, the district will literally have a makeover,” Mr. Ward declared.

The district qualified for the state aid as a hardship case after local voters failed on three separate ballots in the last few years to pass a school construction bond.

While the funding was not a direct outcome of the legal challenge, it smoothed the way for an agreement. “Whatever financial hardships that existed were ameliorated,” Mr. Rosenbaum said.

But the “Compton comeback,” as Mr. Ward puts it, is far from complete.

To shed its current state oversight, the district must pass muster with an independent crisis-management team that is monitoring its finances and compliance with state regulations. A special monitor has been appointed to oversee the settlement.

Gains on Tests

And even if control of the Compton schools is turned over next year to the local school board, which remains in existence but in a substantially weakened role, as Mr. Ward predicts, a state trustee will continue to monitor the district.

Moreover, Compton’s students still lag behind their peers, both in the local area and statewide. The district’s scores were, on average, 10 points or more behind other Los Angeles County districts on most parts of last year’s Stanford Achievement Test-9th Edition.

On the other hand, Mr. Ward is quick to point out that, in past years, Compton performed at the bottom of California districts on state exams.

That, he said, is no longer the case. For example, on last year’s Stanford-9, Compton’s students with limited proficiency in English scored close to county and state averages, even surpassing them in some areas, such as 2nd grade reading and math.

The teacher-attendance rate is also up, from around 80 percent to above 95 percent, Mr. Ward added.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 29, 2000 edition of Education Week as ACLU, Calif. Settle Lawsuit Over Compton

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Special Education Teachers
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD

Read Next

School & District Management Student Mental Health and Learning Loss Continue to Worry Principals
Months into the pandemic, elementary principals say they still want training in crucial areas to help students who are struggling.
3 min read
Student sitting alone with empty chairs around her.
Maria Casinos/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion A Road Map for Education Research in a Crisis
Here are five basic principles for a responsible and timely research agenda during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robin J. Lake
4 min read
Two opposing sides reaching out to work together
J.R. Bee for Education Week
School & District Management 1,000 Students, No Social Distancing, and a Fight to Keep the Virus Out
A principal describes the "nightmare" job of keeping more than 1,000 people safe in the fast-moving pandemic.
4 min read
Dixie Rae Garrison, principal of West Jordan Middle School, in West Jordan, Utah.
Dixie Rae Garrison, principal of West Jordan Middle School in West Jordan, Utah, would have preferred a hybrid schedule and other social distancing measures.
Courtesy of Dixie Rae Garrison
School & District Management A School Leader Who Calls Her Own Shots on Battling the Coronavirus
A charter school founder uses her autonomy to move swiftly on everything from classroom shutdowns to remote schooling.
3 min read
Nigena Livingston, founder and head of School at the URBAN ACT Academy in Indianapolis, Ind.
Nigena Livingston, founder and head of school at the URBAN ACT Academy in Indianapolis, makes swift decisions in responding to the threat of COVID-19 in her school community.
Courtesy of Nigena Livingston