Equal Opportunity

Source: Students Matter

In California, the equal opportunity to learn and succeed in school is a fundamental right that belongs to all — not some — of our children. The system we have now is clearly failing far too many children, but gridlock in the legislature has prevented lawmakers and district leaders from making common sense, reasonable changes to ensure California puts our children’s education first. It’s common sense: our laws shouldn’t get in the way of providing every child with an effective education. They should encourage it. And as Californians, we should demand it. We owe it to the next generation to make sure an excellent teacher is in every classroom. If our laws undermine that mission, then we need to change them.

The courts can ensure that the voices of parents and students are heard and that decisions affecting the future of our children are made based on facts, not politics.

Fundamental right to equal educational opportunity:

  • Education is “essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people.” – California Constitution, Article 9, Section 1
  • “A person may not be…denied equal protection of the laws.” – California Constitution, Article 1, Section 7
  • California schoolchildren have a constitutional right to “substantially equal opportunities for learning.” Serrano v. Priest (Cal. 1976)
  • “The State itself has broad responsibility to ensure basic educational equality.” – Butt v. California (Cal. 1992)

Facts from trial:

  • According to the testimony of Dr. Thomas Kane, in Los Angeles Unified, African American students are 43 percent more likely than white students to be taught by a teacher in the bottom 5 percent of effectiveness. Latino students are 68 percent more likely to have a teacher in the bottom 5 percent of effectiveness.

Quotes from trial:

  • “[E]ducation is an opportunity to overcome certain things, for many students, especially kids of color…especially kids with low socioeconomic status, education can either prop them up or can blow them down…We’re talking about a trajectory changing event, who’s in front of you, and how you’re going to engage with learning for the rest of your career.” – Kareem Weaver, Executive Director, Bay Area New Leaders and Former Principal, Oakland Unified School District
  • “It’s my experience that students who come from families that are lower income often have a hard time because of financial constraints and accessibility to programs to remediate the school’s failure to educate a kid…So, I would say a quality teacher working with students during the school day is imperative, especially for students who are from lower income families. It’s a must.” – William Kappenhagen, Principal, San Francisco Unified School District
  • “As a researcher, I want to know what the end result is for kids. All the policy changes and practice changes inside school districts and schools, is it going to result in a closing of that gap? And the gap is a numerical concept. But the truth is, on the other side of that numerical concept are kids, and the essence is what’s happening to them and their ability to access a better life, to graduate from high school, to go to college, to succeed, that’s where it becomes important.” – Dr. Arun Ramanathan, Former Executive Director, The Education Trust-West
  • “[T]here [are] wide and persistent achievement gaps between Latino students and white students. Those gaps have remained consistent. Those gaps have a tremendously negative impact on outcomes, long term outcomes, for Latino students and it should serve as a wake-up call for our State that we should fix that.” – Dr. Arun Ramanathan