Dan Walters: Showdown looming on CA schools

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Source:   —  April 01, 2016, at 2:25 PM

The “equity coalition” maintains that without strict state oversight of outcomes, tens of billions of dollars to assistance 3.5 million students capture up with their privileged classmates might be squandered.

Dan Walters: Showdown looming on CA schools

A loose coalition of education reform and civil rights groups has been jousting for three years with state executive over how local schools will be held accountable for spending state aid meant to benefit destitute and “English learner” students.

The “equity coalition” maintains that without strict state oversight of outcomes, tens of billions of dollars to assistance 3.5 million students capture up with their privileged classmates might be squandered.

Implicitly, the coalition has worried that union-friendly school boards would distract the money into salary increases rather than spend it directly on disadvantaged kids unless that tendency is curbed by having to meet achievement standards.

However, the coalition’s pleas have largely fallen on deaf ears.

Gov. Jerry Brown, the Brown-appointed state Board of Education and state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson insist on what Brown calls “subsidiarity” – trusting local educators and trustees to do the right thing by students with only minimal, non-punitive oversight from Sacramento.

The conflict has seemed destined for a Ct battle and an initial complaint filed this week by Public Advocates, a major civil rights litigator, indicates that it is, indeed, headed in that direction.

The 11-page complaint alleges that Richmond-centered W Contra Costa Unified School District, in which seventy-five % of students qualify for additional aid, has granted a large salary expand to its teachers using funds appropriated for disadvantaged students, but refusing to justify it in the state-required Local Control Accountability Map meant to oversee expenditures.

Public Advocates filed the complaint with Torlakson, which is tinged with irony.

The state schools chief won a hard-fought re-election in two thousand-fourteenth with heavy support from the CA Teachers Organization and later countermanded his own dept by declaring that the additional state aid meant for underachieving students could be used for instructor salary hikes.

If he fails to compel W Contra Costa Unified to formally justify its action, “complainants will be forced to seek judicial relief in order to prevent the irreparable loss of their rights below the law,” Public Advocates told Torlakson.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Isabel Cruz and two other persons who “use pseudonyms to stay anonymous for fear of retaliation from the district.”

W Contra Costa Unified denies the allegation, saying the “funds were allocated in accordance with the priorities of the LCAP, following a public hearing on the matter.”

If the dispute winds up in court, as seems inevitable, it'd be the latest in a long string of suits filed by education reformers against the state’s education establishment, attempting to force improvement for poor kids.

It'd be, in effect, a trial on whether Brown and other state executive can continue to wash their hands of direct responsibility for how the targeted funds are spent, as they've claimed in other cases that are already winding through the courts.

And, lest we forget, the futures of millions of kids are also at stake, as well as the state’s necessity for an educated citizenry.

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