The state of California is facing accusations that it failed to address the factors that rob students at high-poverty schools of an equal education, with the ACLU of Southern California filing a lawsuit against the state Thursday.
The class-action lawsuit, filed by students, parents and the ACLU, cites seven schools in California, including Compton High and Franklin S. Whaley Middle School in the Compton Unified School District, and Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School and Fremont High School in the L.A. Unified School District.
Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel with the ACLU of Southern California, says while they "shouldn’t have to file lawsuits," the schools named in the suit receive little to no counseling, have high teacher turnover and must deal with what he says are bogus class periods.
"The service courses or home courses which are just euphemisms saying you're going to run errands or you are going to go home instead of school," Rosenbaum said. "That problem doesn't exist in Beverly Hills, it doesn’t exist in Palo Alto."
Students tell NBC4 they feel like they miss out on the opportunities that others have because their education is less than what many receive across California.
"Sometimes the subs that you get, they don't even teach the subjects that they are subbing for," Fremont High School senior Briana Lamb said.
Lamb added that the school needs more teachers so that class sizes can be lowered.
"Right now I have a teacher that never comes and it's already the end of the semester and like, we haven't received our grades," Fremont High School junior Cristian Gaspar said.
Gaspar hopes to attend a four-year university right immediately after high school. He said he wants to study political science and then return to his community and "try to make a change."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst issued a joint statement Thursday in response to Cruz et al. v. State of California lawsuit. In the statement, the two point to the California local control funding formula that gives money to schools based on need.
"California’s education system is in the midst of a historic effort to shift authority over decision making to local school districts, empowering them to determine how best to meet the needs of the students they serve," the statement said. "We will resist any effort to derail this important initiative through costly and unnecessary litigation."
Lamb and others admit that the local funding is good, but believe it is not enough to repair what they say is years of disparity.
"I see them doing minimum and I feel that they know what should be done they just don't want to do it," Lamb said.
The statement also encouraged the ACLU to continue communicating with the state and to work with local school districts to determine the best ways to "improve educational outcomes."
The state of California, the State Board of Education and the Department of Education are all named in the lawsuit.