Plaintiffs Disappointed by Latest Ruling in Robles-Wong School Funding Lawsuit
Likely next step is to petition State Supreme Court
SACRAMENTO, Calif., (April 20, 2016)
– Plaintiffs in the Robles-Wong v. State of California lawsuit expressed disappointment in the ruling today by the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. The case, brought forward in 2010 by the California School Boards Association, Association of California School Administrators and California State PTA, along with nine individual school districts and approximately 60 individual students and their families, alleges that the state’s school finance system violates article IX (the Education Article) of the California Constitution.
In a 2-1 ruling for the defendants, the Appeals Court held that the California Constitution does not guarantee the right to an adequate level of education as defined by funding or by qualitative measures, stipulating only that the state must provide for a “system of common schools.”
The case had been pending for several years after Alameda County Superior Court Judge Steven Brick initially rejected the plaintiffs’ core claims in November 2011. In his ruling, while acknowledging that children in California have a fundamental right to an education, Brick ruled that the state Constitution doesn’t require the Legislature to fund it at any particular level, “however devastating the effects of such underfunding have been on the quality of public school education.” Oral argument on appeal of that ruling took place January 27 in San Francisco.
“Today’s decision is truly disappointing for California’s students and families,” said CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “We firmly believe all students in California have a fundamental right to an education that meets the standards the state has set – and that is currently being denied to many, especially low-income students and students of color. We will continue to petition the court to see that the state meets its obligation to provide all students, regardless of background, with an equitable and high-quality education.”
Plaintiffs in Robles-Wong made two key claims when filing the case:
- The state of California currently operates 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; and
- 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.
“Our core arguments still hold true,” said ACSA Executive Director Wes Smith. “The state of California has an obligation to adequately fund our schools. We’re going to continue pursuing whatever means may be possible to address the state’s failure and to address the inequities.”
“After nearly five years, we were hopeful the Appeal Court would agree to address the vital issue of adequate school funding,” said California State PTA president Justine Fischer. “Although education spending has increased somewhat since the depths of the recession, California’s schools still remain substantially underfunded and under-resourced by all measures. State funding must be adequate to ensure all children have the opportunity to succeed and that we begin to close the opportunity and achievement gap.”
CSBA is a nonprofit association representing nearly 1,000 PreK-12 school districts
and county offices of education throughout California.