California Judge Finalizes Historic Education Settlement in ACLU Lawsuit

March 23, 2005 12:00 am

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Williams v. California Creates Standards for School Resources and Establishes Statewide Accountability System

SAN FRANCISCO - A judge today finalized the historic settlement in a class action education lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations. Advocates say that the lawsuit is a critical first step toward ensuring all California public schools have the means to provide equitable learning conditions for all students.

Judge Peter J. Busch commended all parties involved in the case and said it was "valiantly fought."

"I hope it ended up, as I believe it has, to be a benefit for the state and the schools and I hope this is beginning of better days," Busch said.

Williams v. California, which was originally filed in May 2000, charged the state with reneging on its constitutional obligation to provide students with the bare essentials necessary for education, including sufficient instructional materials, adequate learning facilities and qualified teachers.

"This is the final judgment in a truly historic case," said Catherine Lhamon, an attorney for the ACLU of Southern California. "The courage of the students involved will lead to tremendous improvements in our public schools. It is an invaluable first step to improving the educational system in California."

Both the lead plaintiff Eli Williams, who is now a senior at Balboa High School in San Francisco, and his father, Pastor Sweetie Williams, stood by as the judge finalized the settlement.

"It's an honor to be part of this," said Pastor Williams. "After seeing the conditions in my son's school, I decided to get involved and it's about time we take a real solution to a real problem."

The settlement also established a statewide accountability system to ensure that students have access to adequate materials, safe classrooms and trained teachers. Additional funding was established to begin to accomplish these goals, including:

  • $800 million over four years to make emergency repairs in the lowest performing schools (those ranked in the bottom 3 deciles under the statewide Academic Performance Index [API]);
  • nearly $139 million for new instructional materials for students attending schools in the bottom two API deciles;
  • $20 million to inventory facilities needs in the lowest performing schools, and
  • $30 million to build county superintendents' capacity to oversee low performing schools and fund emergency repairs in those schools next year.

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