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Quality School Education Is Not a Fundamental Right in CA

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on April 22, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

California's State Constitution does not guarantee children a minimum quality K-12 education, according to the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. The decision was reached amidst broad attention being directed towards the K-12 spending debate.

The disappointed plaintiffs have announced that they will appeal to the California Supreme Court.

"Insufficient, Irrational and Unsustainable"

The court upheld the lower court's decision to throw out the consolidated cases of Campaign for Quality Education v. California and Robles-Wong v. California. In both cases, it was alleged that the state's school funding system for K-12 students was "insufficient, irrational and unstable" in that the legislature had imposed graduation requirements, rigorous academic standards and other requirements called for by law, but did not provide the necessary funding or means to meet the stated requirements.

No Minimum Quality Level

In the view of the majority, the plaintiffs had failed to prove that the state constitution had guaranteed a "minimum quality level" of education to school children or even a minimum expenditure required to meet a stated quality level. "We agree wholeheartedly with appellants that the provision of a quality education for all public schools is an important goal for society," justice Jenkins wrote for the majority. But he also opined that it was up to the California legislature to define "quality."

Dissenting Minority

Associate justice Stuart Pollak disagreed with the majority's conclusion that no minimum requirement to support schools existed. By his take, the language of the state constitution "implies the need to maintain public schools at some minimum level of competence." Specifically, he pointed to the language that charged the state to "encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral and agricultural improvement." John Affeldt, attorney for the plaintiffs agreed. A fundamental right that doesn't guarantee a minimum quality would be a "hollow" right, indeed.

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