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Campaign for Quality Education v. California

Issue: Education
Topic: School Finance
Case Date: July 12, 2010

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During the Summer of 2010, five grassroots organizations with a membership of nearly 500,000 California families (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Californians for Justice, the Campaign for Quality Education, PICO California, and the San Francisco Organizing Project), and 22 individual students and parents, filed Campaign for Quality Education v. State of California in Alameda Superior Court. The plaintiffs are represented by Public Advocates, Arnold & Porter, and Munger Tolles & Olson. Our plaintiffs claim that the State’s failure to adequately and equitably fund its schools so that all students have a reasonable opportunity to obtain a meaningful education that prepares them for college, career, and civic engagement is a violation of their fundamental right to education under the California Constitution’s Education and Equal Protection Clauses. The named defendants are the State of California, the Governor, the Director of the Department of Finance, and the State Controller.

We are asking the Court to:

  1. Declare the current funding system unconstitutional and
  2. Order the State to create a new school funding system that is aligned to the actual costs of preparing students for civic, economic, and social success and that takes into account the learning needs of low-income and English learner students.
In addition to more money, we are asking for fundamental reform so that existing and additional funds will be more effectively spent. Some foundational policies that would support efficient spending include an adequate data system, policies to support teacher development, evaluation and effectiveness, and access to preschool for all low-income children.

Despite claims to the contrary, we are not asking the court to mandate a particular school finance system, order specific allocation methods, or determine the amount of money that the State should spend on K-12 public education, but would leave those decisions up to the Governor and Legislature as they work to implement a court judgment.

For more information about the case and our grassroots outreach efforts, watch this video, visit the CQE v. California web site and join CQE v. California on Facebook.

A parallel suit filed by the California School Boards Association (CSBA), Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), California State PTA, nine individual school districts, as well as numerous individual students and parents, raises similar legal claims. The California Teachers Association has intervened in the Robles-Wong suit.

CQE v. California and Robles-Wong v. California proceeded together in Alameda Superior Court before Judge Steven Brick. On January 14, 2011, the trial court dismissed Plaintiffs’ adequacy claim, declaring that the State’s funding system cannot be challenged under the Education Clause (Article IX) of the California Constitution. Under this ruling no set of facts, no matter how egregious, can sustain a claim that the school funding system is depriving students of their right to an education guaranteed by Article IX. On July 26, 2011, the trial court sustained Defendants’ demurrer to Plaintiffs’ amended complaints, rejecting Plaintiffs’ amended Equal Protection arguments.

The CQE and Robles-Wong plaintiffs have appealed to the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, where the cases have been consolidated. Briefing has been completed, and the plaintiffs anticipate oral argument and a decision sometime in 2013.

The complaints, trial court rulings, and briefs are available here. Click here to download a two-page summary of the CQE and Robles-Wong cases. 

Latest Updates


January 31, 2013—As Governor Brown presents his new vision for public school funding, a lawsuit is winding its way through the courts that offers a similar critique of the current school financing system. But, ironically, the Brown administration is fighting many of the same basic concepts in court that it’s advancing in public. Read More