Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

California Rejects Any Right to a Quality Education

Liberal groups filed a lawsuit in California to establish a right to a quality public school education, in a case entitled Campaign for Quality Education v. State of California. Forty-five years ago, the California Supreme Court declared that public school education is a fundamental right under the California Constitution, and that decision invalidated the state’s system for funding schools based on local property taxes. Seven years later, in 1978, Proposition 13 passed in California to sharply limit the amount of property taxes that can be assessed against homeowners.

For various reasons, the quality of public school education in California has plummeted from among the best in the Nation to among the worst. Lawsuits in other states to order legislatures to increase the funding of public schools have resulted in judicial activism granting the requested relief, and it appeared likely that California courts would grant similar relief. But in a surprise, 2-1 ruling of a California appellate court held that there is no constitutional right to a quality public school education. The court ruled against requiring an increase in taxes to attain any “magic level to produce either an adequate-quality educational program or a high-quality educational program.”

In this remarkable example of judicial restraint, the liberal California court system ruled that courts should “leave the difficult and policy-laden questions associated with educational adequacy and funding to the legislative branch.” Elected legislators and not unelected judges should decide whether to spend more taxpayer dollars on public school education. Evidence is overwhelming that spending more money on public education does not significantly improve the quality of the schools. California, which has more than six million students in its public school system, will spend nearly $15,000 per pupil in 2016, which is already a sharp increase in spending without any corresponding increase in academic achievement.

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