Most people I’ve spoken to about California’s school finance system, regardless of their political views, seem to agree that it’s a mess. The researchers on the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence described it as “the most complex in the country, lacking an underlying rationale and transparency,” inequitable, inefficient, unpredictable, unstable and inadequate.
Mike Kirst, the Stanford University education professor emeritus I interviewed today, said he wouldn’t even call it a system. He did call it “an accretion of incremental actions that don’t fit together and that make no sense.”
Will the courts finally force the deadlocked state Legislature to overhaul the complex, arcane formulas that dictate how California allocates money to its schools (and how much)? The nonprofit Public Advocates law firm hopes so. It filed suit today in Alameda Superior Court on behalf of a coalition of advocacy groups, students and parents, saying the status quo denies students the right to a meaningful education. (They also released a video to explain and promote the plaintiff’s case.)
The suit is very similar to an Alameda Superior Court case filed in May by the California PTA, California School Boards Association and an Alameda High School student, Maya Robles-Wong. The two are supposed to be complementary, and they might end up being consolidated in court. While both groups seek to improve the school system as a whole, the second group of plaintiffs will push for additional resources at high-poverty schools; they also brought preschool into the picture.
You can download a copy of the complaint here. Do you think the courts will force California’s Legislature and governor to radically reform its school finance system? Do you agree with the changes proposed by the plaintiffs in this case — namely, to provide significantly more state resources to schools in poor areas?