State settles high-profile school lawsuit

Los Angeles Unified School District, LAUSDThe State Board of Education has voted to settle Cruz v. California, a lawsuit alleging extreme mistreatment of mostly minority students at six urban high schools — a case that has won national attention.

The Ed Source website has details:

The agreement settles [a suit] filed last year by students in high schools in Compton Unified, Los Angeles Unified and Oakland Unified. These students were regularly assigned to multiple classes where they were told to sit idly in classrooms or perform menial tasks, including picking up trash or cleaning erasers. Some students were also sent home as part of the class period.


The lawsuit alleged that the state failed to intervene when scheduling problems and inadequate course offerings at schools resulted in some students spending weeks in classes during which they received no instruction.

In a prepared statement, the lawyer leading the legal team representing the students at the schools predicted it would be broadly consequential. “[Our case] was the first in the nation to address the denial of equal learning time to children residing in many of California’s most disadvantaged communities and attending many of the most underperforming public schools,” wrote Mark Rosenbaum.

Washington Post offered scathing coverage

The fact that the Washington Post and other national publications reported on the case seemed to back up Rosenbaum’s assertion of its importance. The Post’s national education reporter, Emma Brown, depicted the lawsuit as an embarrassing reflection on how students were treated in some of California’s urban school districts:

The plaintiffs’ complaint said that schools didn’t have enough resources to offer a full menu of courses, leaving students in some cases without access to the courses they needed to graduate within four years …  [S]cheduling problems left students unassigned to classes for weeks at a time.


The problems were so bad at Jefferson High in Los Angeles that an Alameda County judge ordered state officials to intervene last year.


One student affected by Jefferson’s chaos was senior Jason Magana, who … took Graphic Design twice and then spent weeks trying to get out of taking it for a third time in order to take economics or government, courses he actually needed for graduation. He also was assigned two “Home” classes during eighth and ninth periods, which meant twice a week, his school day ended at 11:20 a.m. …


Under the settlement agreement, state education officials must help the six high schools deal with scheduling problems and get rid of their fake classes, which were called “College Class,” “Adult Class,” “Service,” and “Home.”


The state must also publicize the requirements of new legislation that was spurred by the lawsuit: AB1012, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last month, prohibits high schools from assigning students to “any course period without educational content.”


Finally, state officials agreed to pay the plaintiffs $400,000 for their attorneys’ fees.

The students’ representation was handled by the ACLU  Foundation of Southern California and the Public Counsel organization.

Another ACLU suit could have huge impact

ACLU.socal.The ACLU is also part of a much bigger lawsuit against the Los Angles Unified School District that puts it on a collision course with Gov. Jerry Brown and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and could have a statewide effect.

The Brown administration and Torlakson have said that extra funds going to school districts with higher numbers of impoverished students, English learners and foster children can be used for broad teacher raises, not specifically to help those students. The ACLU says that violates the 2013 law establishing the Local Control Funding Formula. This is from its July 1 statement announcing the lawsuit.

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District is violating state law by refusing to use state education funds specifically targeted to help low-income students, English language learners and foster youth to increase or improve services for those students, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Community Coalition of South Los Angeles and LAUSD parent Reyna Frias.


The suit, filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court, asserts that the district has used improper accounting practices that subvert both the letter and spirit of the 2013 education finance reform law known as Local Control Funding Formula. If the district proceeds with its current plan, high need students stand to lose more than $2 billion in funding over the next decade.


“LAUSD is breaking its promise to provide my children and millions of other students in the future, with the services they need and the law says they should receive,” said Ms. Frias, whose children qualify for the funds targeted by LCFF.

The ACLU is partnering with Public Advocates and Covington & Burling LLP in bringing the case. A trial in the case is not expected to get underway until next year. Unlike what happened in Cruz v. California, a settlement is unlikely, since Local Control Funding Formula dollars have already been budgeted for employee compensation for years to come in L.A. Unified, the nation’s second largest school district.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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