Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 21, 2010

Stir it up

Good news folks, AUSD along with other school district throughout California have filed a lawsuit against the State of California arguing that the funding mechanisms for public education are broken, but at the core of the argument is that California has not met its constitutional mandate to give California students equal access to public school education in a “system of common schools.”

Susan Davis at In Alameda broke the story early yesterday  morning and even more notably is the parent to one of the many plaintiffs who have joined together in this suit.   Critics of AUSD have long complained that the school district has not done enough to force Sacramento to do something about the inequitable funding levels from school district to school district.   But this is not a last minute reaction to Measure E critics.  Oh no.  This is something that has been in the works for years and has finally culminated into this collaborative effort.   School boardmember Mike McMahon has cataloged a timeline of events leading up to this lawsuit.

But what would a positive step in the right direction be without its share of detractors.   Even though opponents do not want their pocketbooks to be plundered to fund their local schools.   Apparently, fighting for equal funding for all kids in California can be spun as a bad thing.   After the news of the lawsuit broke yesterday, the anti Measure E folks posted this on their Facebook/web page:

Of course, if the Committee Against Measure E (CAME) would have done some fairly bare bones reading about the lawsuit, they would know that the lawyers and legal organizations that are assisting are doing this all pro bono.   From Susan D.’s blog post:

In addition to AUSD, the Alpine, Del Norte County, Folsom Cordova, Hemet, Porterville, Riverside, San Francisco, and Santa Ana unified school districts are plaintiffs in the suit. So, too, is the California PTA, the California School Boards Association, and the Association of California School Administrators. And all of them are being represented, pro bono, by law firms up and down the state, including every major school law firm in the state. (The individual Alameda plaintiffs are being represented by the Stanford Youth and Education Law Project, as well as Bingham McCutcheon.)

But CAME doesn’t let facts get in the way of trying to push its agenda.

As an aside, it must be exhausting being so negative all the time.   Being against everything seems like a such a chore.

It’s important to note that despite these positive efforts, this doesn’t negate the necessity for Measure E.   Any lawsuit, especially with a bureaucracy the size of the State of California is going to be a long hard slog.   This  issue won’t be resolve tomorrow, heck possibly all the students currently connected to the lawsuit might be out of public school by the time the appeals and final determination is made, but this is a long term strategy and if successful will have long reaching affects for all California students.    And I doubt the State is going to go down without a huge fight.  According to the LA Times blog, this was the official reponse from the Governor’s office:

“The governor will oppose this lawsuit and believes the state will prevail. The funding of public education in California has long been and continues to be a top priority of California, even in bad economic and budget times.

Also, the fact that a lawsuit was filed is indicative of how intractable the problem is.   That it is not as easy as some opponents have suggested to just knock on a few Congresspeople’s doors and say, “Please, sir, I want some more” with hand outstretched.

Here’s the neat thing, the lawsuit is Robles-Wong v. State of California, local Alameda High student Maya Robles-Wong is the lead plaintiff to the suit.  To follow the activities around this suit, you can keep tabs on this nifty website.

Tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. there will be a rally at Alameda High School to support our schools.   Come out and show your support!



  1. I can’t figure AFT out. Are they just flat out lying? Or do they really not understand what “pro bono” means?

    Maybe they thought the lawyers are really into Sonny Bono.

    Comment by Higgledy Piggledy — May 21, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

  2. I don’t get their lawn sign slogan “Fund Classrooms, not Courtrooms”. Seems to me that there is no way to fund the classrooms unless we pass the parcel tax, so it really isn’t an either-or is it?

    Comment by Kate Quick — May 21, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  3. Honestly, I think they’re just stupid. Their latest entry on the AFT Facebook page is a prime example. In that entry, AFT expresses astonishment and scorn that AUSD has the second and third highest ratios for adminstrators and staff per pupil when compared to comparable districts.

    What they’re apparently unable to comprehend is that that’s a good thing from an efficiency standpoint. A high ratio means fewer administrators and staff per pupil than comparable districts. Using AFT’s own numbers AUSD is incredibly efficiently run as compared to comparable districts. The numbers are so good for AUSD, I think APLUS should post those numbers on their own website.

    Comment by Oh the irony! — May 21, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

  4. 3 “…AUSD has the second and third highest ratios for adminstrators and staff per pupil when compared to comparable districts.”
    “A high ratio means fewer administrators and staff per pupil…”

    I thought a high ratio of one thing to another meant the first part of the ratio was high compared to the second or compared side. Which in the stated case, would mean that the number of administrators are high compared to the students.

    (I have no idea if that’s the AUSD case or not or whether the ratio is high compared to other districts.)

    Comment by jayare — May 21, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

  5. #4 — Sorry if my message wasn’t clear.

    The information cited by AFT shows that AUSD has 385 pupils per administrator. The state average is 250 pupils per administrator. So each AUSD administrator is serving 135 more pupils than the average administrator. That’s the second highest number of pupils per administrator among the list of comparable schools.

    For staff/pupil ratios, each AUSD staff member serves 336 pupils, the state average is 229 pupils per administrator, so each AUSD administrator is serving 107 more pupils than average. That’s the third highest number of pupils per administrator among the comparable schools.

    AFT is apparently reading the chart as if there are 336 administrators per pupil.

    Comment by Oh the irony! — May 21, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

  6. The state will have to spend money defending this lawsuit. To act as though it were free just because the plaintiff’s lawyers are providing their services pro bono is jejune. Money spent defending this lawsuit cannot be spent elsewhere (i.e. on education). According to my reading of the state’s documents, education (K through university) uses about 40% of the general fund. How much would be enough? The lawsuit is kicking the state when it is down. There is no pot of gold from which an infinite supply of education cash can be drawn. I am appalled by this. Education policy is meant to be set by elected officials. We elected them; if they are not satisfactory we can elect others. I see no reason to set school policy with a web of lawsuits. I am saddened that so many people who care about education think that this is the best use of their efforts and resources. Well, good luck wringing more cash out of the state.

    Comment by cxyz — May 22, 2010 @ 9:31 am

  7. #6: If current and past legislators and governors had done their jobs properly and supported/worked within the state’s constitutional guarantees of education (instead of being so bound and determined to “cut taxes” or not impose rational new ones), there would be no need to go to court.

    The courts exist in order to adjudicate problems just like this one, when the government fails to do the job it is required to do.

    Sure, it costs money to right wrongs, but the inaction of elected officials has cost us the wasted lives of thousands of underserved students.
    Which is worth more in the long run?

    Let’s not waste any more students’ lives with inferior education that is, in fact, unconstitutional.

    In the interim, VOTE YES ON E!!!!!!

    Comment by Jon Spangler — May 22, 2010 @ 10:54 am

  8. cxyz — Are you equally saddened by the lawsuits that have been brought against Measure H? The money that’s being spent defending those lawsuits could also be spent on education.

    Our elected officials have failed to act, in part because the 2/3 budget requirement makes it impossible for them to act. Both the system and our elected representatives have failed us. While no one likes litigation, sometimes litigation is the only way to address issues. Without litigation, we might still have segregated schools and miscegenation in some parts of this country. Those were the policies of elected officials in some states until the courts stepped in.

    Comment by Oh the irony! — May 22, 2010 @ 10:56 am

  9. It looks like cxyz decided not to really read what that funding litigation is about. One of the core arguments there is that the State’s current system is unconstitutionally inefficient and irrational.

    So this isn’t solely a case looking for “more cash” as cxyz says. In fact, one of the main goals of the lawsuit is to make sure that whatever dollars the State does put into the system can be used as efficiently and fairly as possible.

    Comment by Trying to be a grown up — May 22, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

  10. 8.
    Dave, with legislation we still have segregated schools and miscegenation in most parts of the country. They’re not decreed by statute yet still practiced by unofficial non-elected citizens.

    Comment by Jayare — May 22, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

  11. 10 — I’m not Dave. I’m not notadave either although I am not a Dave. As to the ongoing societal problems, there are some areas where there are wrongs for which there is no legal redress, but that does not mean that we should not pursue legal remedies when legal redress is available.

    Comment by Oh the irony! — May 22, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

  12. I would like to point out that our Alameda legislators have failed to use the leverage that they have to equalize the funding for Alameda schools. In the last few budget cycles, there has been a desperate scramble to find a few Republicans to vote for the budget. Our Democratic members of the assembly and senate should have used this opportunity to demand that the state equalize funding for the Alameda School District in order for them to vote for the budget.

    They chose not to use this rare opportunity when their leverage could actually have been used to get fairness for their school district. They are more interested in higher offices and not offending people who are not in their districts than representing their constituents in Sacramento.

    Comment by John — May 22, 2010 @ 7:57 pm

  13. I am, in fact, equally saddened by the lawsuits against measure H, which measure I intend to vote for, as indeed I have voted in favor of every single education-related finance measure that I have been presented with in my adult (i.e. voting) life–even ones I thought somewhat misguided…since I am a product of public education and desire that it flourish.

    Having read some of the legal brainstorming paperwork it seemed that the team was casting about for a rationale to sue. That suggests that the matter is far from clear cut. The outcome will evidently depend on some delicate legal theory and the particular interpretations of the constitution that the involved judges bring to bear.

    I do believe, in fact, that the current education system is suboptimal.

    Are my correspondents confident that this lawsuit will improve matters in the current climate? I am not. But we will see.

    At one time, public education in California was the envy of the world. Now it is not. What changed? Things that this lawsuit will repair? I did not get that impression from reading it.

    Comment by cxyz — May 22, 2010 @ 8:38 pm

  14. 13: $6 BILLION in education cuts this year is not “casting about” at all.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. From my perspective, the legal team was essentially forced into this legal action by the legislative and administrative gridlock in Sacramento that led to the billions in decreased education funding just this year…That’s enough of a rationale for me, and is lots more than “casting about.”

    Public education was the envy of the world once–until the failures of governmental leadership that culminated in Proposition 13 in 1978.

    Prop. 13 has had the foreseeable and inevitable effect, with its “no more new taxes” provisions, of locking up government with its 2/3 majorities required for approving budgets and taxes, locking in inequitable and pro-business tax structures that starve government, etc.

    I am hopeful that this lawsuit may help break up the gridlock that has been in effect since 1978: every other effort has failed, including Prop 98.

    I cannot be confident because the historical trend in CA governance since 1978 offers no basis for confidence. Since 1978, CA has propositioned and legislated itself into a terrible corner with no easy exit in sight. Nothing that makes any progress in solving this crisis will be pretty or easy or smooth…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — May 22, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

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