Two years ago, a number of parents filed a case claiming that California’s failure to provide low-income minority students in schools in Los Angles and two other California districts an opportunity to learn basic literacy denies students the fundamental right to education guaranteed under Articles I and IV of the state constitution. Last month, plaintiffs and the state reached a settlement agreement in the Ella T. vs. State of California case. The settlement will surely have state-wide implications.
The settlement will establish, upon passage of Governor Newsom’s budget, a $50 million block grant program for the 75 lowest performing elementary schools in the state. The school districts of the grant recipient schools will be required to identify the root causes of school underperformance and then develop a plan based on high-quality literacy training and expertise to address those needs. Potential remedies include the hiring of literacy coaches, aides, and bilingual reading specialists, the development of culturally responsive curricula, evidence-based professional development in delivery of literacy instruction, and supports like expanded learning programs, before and after school programs, expanded school day, research-based social-emotional learning approaches, trauma-informed practices and training, and literacy training and education for parents and caregivers.
Mark Rosenbaum, one of the attorneys who filed the suit along with the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, said he hopes the state will expand the targeted funding to more schools without more litigation. But settling for 75 schools now means that students will get help sooner. The funding is contingent upon the legislature’s approval of the governor’s $50 million block grant to fund the program. If the grant is not approved, the case goes back to court.
The agreement also provides for $3 million to allow literacy experts from the California Collaborative for Excellent Education, a state agency that helps schools and districts with capacity building, to assist districts in implementing their plans. It also includes a community engagement initiative and guidance on strategies to reduce racially disproportionate discipline, address student academic needs prior to discipline, and implement recently enacted school discipline legislation.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs are also representing plaintiffs in a federal right to literacy case in Michigan that is now pending decision on the state’s motion to dismiss before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Read more about the Gary B. v Snyder case and other recent litigation developments in Michigan here.