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Robles-Wong v. State of California - California Court of Appeal, 1st District

Summary of Case:

CSBA’s Education Legal Alliance (hereinafter “ELA”) and two other statewide education associations, nine school district, and over 60 individual plaintiffs filed this lawsuit, which alleges that the state’s school finance system violates article IX (the Education article) of the California Constitution.

The ELA makes two basic claims. First, California students possess a fundamental right to an opportunity to obtain an education that meets a qualitative standard, described as an education that prepares students to participate fully in our society’s economic and civic life. The State violates this right by operating a school finance system that prevents schools and school districts from providing all students access to an education that satisfies their fundamental interest in being prepared to obtain economic security and participate in our democratic institutions. Second, the State is violating its duty to “provide for” a system of common schools and to “keep up and support” the system it has established.

While the Plaintiffs recognize that the State may have discretion in how it chooses to construct the common schools system, it has a constitutional duty to keep up and support the system it has constructed. Specifically, in failing to ensure that its finance system provides the funding necessary to keep up and support delivery of the State’s standards-based education program to all students in all schools, the State violates its constitutional duty to maintain the system of common schools.

The trial court essentially dismissed the lawsuit after finding that the California Constitution does not guarantee any particular level of education or funding, or any specific funding system. After an amended complaint was filed but again dismissed on similar grounds, the ELA filed an appeal with the First District Court of Appeal challenging the findings of the trial court. The parties have completed their briefing, amicus briefs have been filed, and the parties are waiting for oral argument to be scheduled.