Second School Finance Lawsuit Hits California

July 12, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

California’s school finance system came under a new legal challenge today, as advocates for low-income families and minority students filed a lawsuit in Alameda County that seeks to scrap the current method of funding public schools. The current system is unconstitutional, they argue, and inequitable.

This is the second suit brought against the state for its school funding system in as many months. In May, several school districts, along with parents, students, and education groups like the California School Boards Association, sued the state for much the same reason. That suit was also filed in Alameda County Superior Court and lawyers in both cases hope that the same judge will hear their cases.

Lawyers for the new lawsuit say they consider their case to be complementary to the Robles Wong v. California case filed in May, but they point to a couple of key differences. One is that the plaintiffs in their suit are poor families and their children, or community organizations that represent them. Another difference is that their suit focuses not only on funding equity in K-12, but in preschool as well.

Besides asking for a judge to scrap the current finance system and order state legislators and the governor to devise a new one, the lawsuit is also seeking other reforms that plaintiffs say are necessary to achieve equity. One is a more robust data system that helps the public track how dollars are spent on public education and the other is a system for ensuring that effective teachers are available to all students, especially those in the most disadvantaged schools.

“The California constitution very clearly places education as the first and most important duty of the government,” said Rohit Singla, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, in a conference call with reporters earlier today. “It’s beyond a doubt that the state is not meeting its obligations.”

The two school finance suits come in the midst of one of the most damaging recessions in California, which has forced state lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to make deep cuts to spending across all sectors of government. Public schools have taken a roughly $17 billion hit over the last two years. State spending on K-12 in fiscal 2010 still accounted for about 37 percent of California’s $91.4 billion overall budget

California, with K-12 enrollment of 6 million public students, ranks near the bottom of the 50 states for its per-pupil funding, according to the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, which determined that the state spent $8,164 per pupil in 2007, more than $2,000 less than the national average of $10,557. That number, of course, doesn’t reflect the impact that the recession has had on per-pupil spending in California.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.


Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.
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.
Curriculum Webinar
STEM Fusion: Empowering K-12 Education through Interdisciplinary Integration
Join our webinar to learn how integrating STEM with other subjects can revolutionize K-12 education & prepare students for the future.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way
School & District Management Webinar How Pensions Work: Why It Matters for K-12 Education
Panelists explain the fundamentals of teacher pension finances — how they are paid for, what drives their costs, and their impact on K-12 education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Does a Ten Commandments Display in Classrooms Violate the Constitution?
Louisiana is poised to become the first state to require all schools to post the Ten Commandments in classrooms.
7 min read
Human hand holding a magnifying glass over open holy bible book of Exodus verses for Ten Commandments, top view
Marinela Malcheva/iStock/Getty
States Q&A 'Politics Does Not Belong in Education,' Says a Departing State Schools Chief
Improving student outcomes requires finding common ground, says Missouri's long-serving education commissioner, Margie Vandeven.
9 min read
Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven talks to students participating in Future Farmers of America during an event in February 2024, in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven talks to students participating in Future Farmers of America during an event in February 2024, in Jefferson City, Mo. Vandeven is stepping down from her position after more than eight years on the job.
Courtesy of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
States Should Voters Decide What Schools Teach?
Californians may vote to require a new high school finance course. Critics argue it sets a bad precedent.
6 min read
A man stands behind a row of electronic voting machines covered with yellow privacy shields as he uses a touch screen to vote.
A lone voter casts his ballot for Super Tuesday at a polling station in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles on March 5, 2024.
Richard Vogel/AP
States Is Bipartisan Education Policy Still Possible?
It's still possible to forge cross-party education policy coalitions, advocates said.
5 min read
Image of a small U.S. flag in a pencil case.