An Alameda High School student has sued the state of California, saying the way public schools receive money must change because the needs of students are not being met.

Nine school districts, including the Alameda Unified School District, are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit announced this morning.

"I'm not an expert in eduction finance, but I know enough to say that it's not because my teachers and our schools aren't trying to give us what we need," said Maya Robles-Wong, a 16-year-old junior at Alameda High. "I know that the real problem is that the state is not providing the support my school needs to teach me everything I need to know to succeed, to go to college and to be able to compete with kids from all over the country and the world."

Known as Robles-Wong, et al. vs. state of California, the lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

More than 60 students and their families are also plaintiffs, as well as the California School Boards Association and the California State PTA.

They claim the way schools are funded is unstable and not aligned with state educational requirements, and that not enough resources are provided to school districts to meet academic performance and other goals.

The lawsuit aims to have the funding mechanism declared unconstitutional and require lawmakers to come up with a new system.

"The community, and quite frankly I as an educator, have waited a long time for this lawsuit," Alameda school Superintendent Kirsten Vital said. "The funding system for schools is unconstitutional and it needs to change."


Advertisement

Vital called the lawsuit "historic."

Alameda school officials, teachers and parents first began considering suing the state over funding in February 2007.

The school board decided to go forward with the idea in June of that year, linking its effort with lobbying pressure on lawmakers in Sacramento.

"This is something that the board and the district has long recognized needed to be done," Alameda school district Trustee Tracy Jensen said. "Basically, we want to improve how we are financed from the state."

While $17 billion has been cut recently from education due to the state budget crisis, lawsuit supporters say they do not expect to see changes in school funding any time soon. But they hope for long-term and permanent change if their suit is successful.

The decision by Alameda school leaders to join the lawsuit comes as they also are seeking to raise money at the ballot box through a local parcel tax.

The mail-in only ballots for Measure E are due June 22.

It needs a two-thirds majority to pass and would raise $14 million for the district.

Along with the Alameda school district, other plaintiffs in the lawsuit announced today include the San Francisco Unified School District and the Porterville Unified School District in Tulare County.

The Alameda district is the only district within Alameda County that has joined the suit.

"The state has known that its school finance system is fundamentally broken, yet has only proposed band-aid solutions," said Pat Godwin, superintendent of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, another plaintiff in the lawsuit. "It is time that the system was fixed and that we replaced it with one that actually aligns the allocation of funds with the state's educational program."