SAN FRANCISCO — The state sued 18 school districts Tuesday in a bid to force them to fix allegedly shoddy classrooms, issue textbooks and hire credentialed teachers as required under state law.
The suit is an outgrowth of one filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which accuses the state of sidestepping its duty to guarantee students an equal public education.
Last month, San Francisco Superior Judge Peter J. Busch declined to dismiss the ACLU suit accusing the state of providing its poorest public school students with an inferior education.
The judge said the ACLU could sue the state on allegations that its “oversight and management systems are nonexistent or inadequate.”
“This case is exclusively about the state’s system of oversight and that system’s alleged inadequacies and failures,” Busch said.
“The lawsuit is aimed at ensuring a system that will either prevent or discover and correct such deficiencies from going forward.”
The state, in its suit filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court, claimed the school districts and their locally elected boards, not Sacramento, ultimately are responsible for ensuring equal educational opportunities for all children.
Gov. Davis’ media office did not immediately return messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.
“Rather than suing the districts, a system of oversight and management should be set up,” said ACLU attorney Michael Jacobs. “They’re suing themselves.”
He likened the state’s response to the ACLU suit as “a publisher not having the ability to order a newspaper to stop the presses.”
The state suit, known as a cross-complaint to the ACLU suit, seeks a court order demanding the districts fix the various defects if the ACLU proves that the conditions exist.
At the Cloverdale High School, the ACLU alleges that classroom temperatures reach as high as 110 degrees in the summer and that students cannot take certain books home because there aren’t enough.
At the Morris E. Daily Elementary School in Fresno, the ACLU alleged that some children “have urinated or defecated on themselves at school because toilets were locked when they needed to use the restroom.”
The ACLU says economics textbooks at Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra haven’t been updated since 1986 and, among other things, one-third of the student population must stand during assemblies because the seats are missing.
Last week, the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning said that one in five teachers at 1,600 California public schools is underqualified.
The ACLU sued in May in a case that grew to represent 98 students in 46 schools in 18 school districts.
The ACLU will ask the judge in February to expand its suit to cover all 1,100 school districts and their 5.8 million students.
Here are the 18 school districts named in the state’s cross-complaint:
Alhambra City Elementary School District;
Alhambra City High
Campbell Union Elementary School District;
Cloverdale Unified School District;
Fresno Unified School District;
Inglewood Unified School District;
Long Beach Unified School District;
L.A. Unified School District;
Lynwood Unified School District;
Merced City Elementary School District;
Montebello Unified School District;
Pioneer Union Elementary School District;
Oakland Unified School District;
Ravenswood City Elementary School District;
San Francisco Unified School District,
Visalia Unified School District;
West Contra Costa Unified School District.
The ACLU’s case and the state’s suit are Williams vs. California, 312236.