California Court Appeals Determines Constitution Does Not Guarantee Minimum Education Quality

In a surprising turn of events that split the California Court of Appeals, Wednesday, it appears that the state of California does not guarantee children a minimally-funded quality education. This is a landmark ruling which has been closely watched by those in favor of more spending on elementary and secondary schooling in the Golden State.

The 2-1 decision is actually over two, 6-year-old lawsuits which now denies both the California School Board Association as well as student advocacy groups the right to a fair trial in order to plead their case that a lack of appropriate funding by the state Legislature directly relates to the lack of an education students should be entitled to. Indeed, the ruling says these students, in fact, are not entitled to this education at all.

quality educationOf course, the plaintiffs in the case say they will appeal the ruling to the next level: the California Supreme Court.

The two original lawsuits argue that the state has an “insufficient, irrational, and unstable” school funding system which fails to offer students their constitutional right to a quality education. During the proceedings, the lawsuit argues that state Legislature detailed what this entails in the form of graduation requirements, high academic standards, and other educational mandates; however, they did not provide the school districts with necessary resources in order to meet these demands.

In this majority decision, then, Associate Justice Martin Jenkins goes to the trouble of acknowledging the fundamental right of children to some kind of education but also makes sure to note that the Constitution does not require provisional education of a certain minimum level. In his response, he wrote “We agree wholeheartedly with appellants that the provision of quality of education for all public school students is an important goal for society,” but the state Legislature gets to decide what that “quality” should be.

Associate Justice Peter Siggins appears to concur. He says, “As much as I can appreciate the plaintiffs’ frustration and dissatisfaction with the overall adequacy of California’s public schools, and recognize our Legislature’s challenges in adequately funding schools to meet the standards it sets, I cannot agree [the Constitution provides a right to] command the state to fund schools at some qualitative level.”