The fad of suing states for more education funding has reached the state that can probably least afford it.
More than 60 children and nine school districts across California filed a historic lawsuit Thursday, arguing that elected officials have failed in their constitutional obligation to support public schools.
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In short, the case seeks to force the state Legislature and governor to fix a broken education funding system – one that has failed to take into account what it actually costs to educate a child, plaintiffs’ attorneys said.
The lawsuit notes that California lags well behind other states in funding and resources, falling to 44th in per pupil spending among states and 47th when adjusted for cost of living. The state ranks 49th in overall staffing ratios and 50th in librarians, the suit says. To reach the national average the state would need to hire another 104,000 teachers, plaintiff attorneys said.
“What’s most frustrating is that kids in other parts of the country have more opportunity than we do,” said Maya Robles-Wong, 16, the lead plaintiff in the suit and an Alameda High School junior, at a San Francisco news conference. “I’m here today to ask the state to fix this problem.”
There’s something good about the drive to excel: being low man on the totem pole can be a great motivator. But it should be a motivator to improve. The problem with looking at states in terms of being below average in expenditures is just that: you’re looking at expenditures. All you have to do to close the gap is spend more of the taxpayer’s money. Someone is always going to be below average. Someone has to be the bottom of the 50-state survey of pupil spending. (And if states all spend exactly the same, you can make a state below average with a cost of living adjustment!)
The lawsuit is actually funny that way. Its premise goes something like this: The constitution demands that we do X. We’re not doing X. The reason that we’re not doing X is because we don’t have enough money. Therefore the constitution demands that we get more money in order to do X. I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out where the problem in that valid but unsound argument is.