The lawsuit—Maya Robles-Wong v. the State of California—is straightforward. It asks the courts to declare the current education finance system unconstitutional and would require the state to establish a school finance system that provides all students an equal opportunity to meet the academic goals set by
We are seeking to remedy a clear disconnect: The state requires students to meet high education standards and then has repeatedly denied them the resources needed to meet those standards. California ranks a dismal 47th among all states in per-pupil spending, when adjusted for regional cost differences, according to the National Education Association. This lack of alignment between expectations and resources hurts all our students and threatens our state’s chances for the prosperity that only a well-educated population can deliver. Our children do not have the opportunities or resources to reach their full potential. We must do better when only half of all California students are proficient in English-language arts; and less than half (approximately 46 percent) are proficient in mathematics.
As parents, educators, and concerned community members, we see clearly and personally the promise of education and the perils it faces today in California. PTAs throughout the state are stepping up as never before to help their schools through tough times. But it is not our responsibility to make up for nonstop budget cuts. We believe it is the state’s job to finance the basics of education for every child. We cannot wait to fix our school finance system any more than children can postpone their childhood. During the past decade report after report has documented the state’s failure to remedy its broken school finance system.
The time for patience has passed. We have been forced to file this lawsuit by a complete lack of meaningful action by the Legislature and the governor to reform our broken school finance system. Most Californians, according to a recent poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, believe there is not enough state funding going to public schools, and a majority single out K-12 education as the area they most want to protect from spending cuts.
The California Constitution itself compels the state to give education funding a unique priority, requiring that money “shall first be set apart” to support public schools that will prepare students to become informed citizens and productive members of society. Instead, school financing has been battered by instability and inconsistency that make it impossible for schools and school districts to plan effectively.
In addition to California State PTA, our coalition of plaintiffs includes approximately 60 individual students and their families; nine school districts, including urban and rural districts throughout the state; the Association of California School Administrators; and the California School Boards Association. Plaintiff Maya Robles-Wong is a 16-year-old 11th grader at Alameda High School in Alameda County.
As we seek a remedy in court, we continue to push for improvements to our education system and to other critical services for children and youth. As committed volunteers, we work day in and day out to empower our members to advocate for all of our children at all levels, from the classroom to the hearing rooms of the State Capitol where PTA members and leaders often testify.
There are more than nine million children who live in California. We hold their future in our hands today, just as they hold the future of our state in theirs. That’s more than enough reasons for us to advocate for every child.
For more information about the school finance lawsuit, including the complete text of the lawsuit, visit fixschoolfinance.org. For more information about the California State PTA, please visit capta.org. ∆
Jo A.S. Loss is president of the California State PTA, which has nearly one million members throughout the state working on behalf of public schools, children, and families, with the motto, “Every child, one voice.” The PTA is the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer association working to improve the education, health, and welfare of all children and youth. The PTA also advocates at national, state, and local levels for education and family issues. The PTA is nonprofit, nonsectarian, and noncommercial. Send comments via the editor at email@example.com.