John T. AffeldtManaging Attorney

Issue(s): Language Access, Employment, Teacher Quality, School Finance

“Despite our constitution’s recognition that public education is the state’s highest and most necessary duty, California’s support for education has reached historic lows, with the pernicious consequences of neglect spreading to every community. We should all recoil at the sight of millions of lives being drained of their full potential on a daily basis.”

–John Affeldt

John Affeldt is a managing attorney at Public Advocates in San Francisco, where he focuses on educational equity issues through litigation, policy advocacy and partnerships with grassroots organizations. John served as a lead counsel on Williams v. California, which resulted in a breakthrough 2004 settlement guaranteeing California’s students sufficient instructional materials, decent facilities and qualified teachers. He is also lead counsel on Community Coalition v. LAUSD, a challenge to the district’s under-counting its obligation to support high need students by $450 million annually, and was lead on Campaign for Quality Education v. California a lawsuit that challenged the state’s under-funding of public schools.

John brought the only lawsuits in the country to enforce the teacher quality provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which required states and districts to provide fully credentialed teachers in equal measure to low-income students and students of color. These actions led to California strengthening its definition of the “highly qualified” teacher all students are owed; a state court voiding the improper labeling of some 4,000 provisionally-certified teachers as “highly qualified”; and a Ninth Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals ruling striking down a federal regulation that unlawfully labeled teachers still in training across the nation as “highly qualified.” In Association of Mexican-American Educators v. California, John won a precedent-setting en banc decision from the Ninth Circuit establishing that discriminatory teacher tests must be job-related, a result that forced California to reform its certification exam to the benefit of 50,000 test-takers annually.

John has worked on numerous school finance, teacher quality, equitable opportunity and accountability policies in Sacramento. As part of this work, in 2006 John co-drafted a state law that now requires all schools to report publicly their actual per-pupil expenditures by school site, the first such law in the country. In 2013 and 2014, John helped to shape several key provisions of California’s new school funding law known as the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). These new laws require schools to provide increased or improved services for high need students in proportion to the billions of dollars of additional funds generated by such students, establish parental involvement as a new state priority, and require new levels of community engagement and transparency in school planning and budgeting statewide.

John is a founding member of the Campaign for Quality Education, Parents and Students for Great Schools, and the LCFF Equity Coalition, which are grassroots, community-based and advocacy coalitions that have worked on statewide policy advocacy campaigns to improve educational opportunities for low-income students of color and to build power in low-income communities.

Before coming to Public Advocates, John clerked for the Hon. William M. Hoeveler in Federal District Court in Miami, assisting with the trial of Manuel Noriega. Prior to law school, John spent three years living and working as a volunteer in Indonesia with VIA.


John graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1990 and Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University in 1984.


  • Named a California Attorney of the Year twice, once by California Lawyer Magazine in 2005, and again in 2010 by the Recorder
  • Named a Leading Plaintiff Lawyer in America by Lawdragon Magazine in 2007
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