13 Feb Community Coalition Sues the State of California and Wins $2B Educational Equity Lawsuit
The power of the people was the driving force behind this settlement, the largest ever in California and one of the largest in the nation. Brought by parents concerned about the quality of education their children received during the COVID-19 pandemic, Community Coalition’s and The Oakland REACH families came together with Public Counsel and Morrison & Foerster LLP.
“The urgent vision of this historic settlement is not just to recoup the academic losses suffered by California’s most disadvantaged students but to erase the opportunity gaps altogether exacerbated by the pandemic. The $2 billion-plus that will be committed exclusively to the implementation of evidence-based solutions for students in greatest need of learning recovery supports is the largest we are aware of dedicated at one time to the most pressing crisis in America today,” states Mark Rosenbaum, Senior Special Counsel for Strategic Litigation for Public Counsel. “This is a victory of partnership of students, caregivers, and community organizations with California’s leadership that recognizes that educational opportunity is the State’s greatest resource.”
Courageous parents and students filed the class action lawsuit in December 2020 to hold California’s education leaders responsible for failing to provide adequate instruction to our most vulnerable students, including children of essential workers and parents who lost their jobs during the pandemic. Their efforts on behalf of California’s most vulnerable demonstrate what we in movement work already know … when we fight, we win!
“This is such a huge victory and much-deserved investment in California’s Black and Brown students who are still feeling the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,“ says Community Coalition’s President and CEO, Alberto Retana. “Community Coalition (CoCo) devised a summer program targeting academics, technology, and wellness when LAUSD failed to provide for our students’ educational needs. Our approach considered English language and technological proficiency and other nuances that characterize the curriculum and educational inequities of South L.A schools.”
When the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced school closures through the end of the 2020 school year, Brotherhood Crusade, Community Coalition, and InnerCity Struggle joined forces to raise $400,000 to support 5,000 at-risk South and East LA students with technology and emergency needs. Parents and families in under-served communities’ primary concern was continuing their students’ education and accessing technology.
“Parents were deeply concerned about student learning loss in addition to students’ socio-emotional health due to increased isolation. Parents also expressed frustration with their students’ schools due to a lack of communication and transparency about the upcoming school year based on what they had seen in 2020,” explains Miguel Dominguez, Director of Education & Youth Policy.
While affluent and many middle–class families could use technological hardware and high–speed internet to provide their children with online classes and other learning and enrichment resources, too many of our youth did not have those opportunities. The ongoing support from the Katie McGrath and JJ Abrams Foundation and a much-needed $100,000 grant from the Weingart Foundation that allowed Community Coalition to purchase laptops and hotspots for our kids so they could access their classrooms.
“We had a major responsibility to create a learning experience to curb learning loss. Given the impacts of the pandemic, mental health and wellness were at our program’s core,” Aurea Montes-Rodriguez, Executive Vice President of Community Coalition, remembers.
CoCo created the Summer Academic Program (SAP), which engaged hundreds of students and families, ages 8-18, from across South L.A. five days a week for seven weeks. Three of the five days were in person, while the other two were virtual learning days. Community Coalition hired a culturally knowledgeable and sensitive academic team of six instructors and seven student engagement facilitators to create a project-based curriculum focused on communication, wellness, and technology.
Additionally, CoCo provided one-on-one tutoring, transition assistance for students and parents returning to the regular school year, an IT Help Desk with bilingual technology training for platforms utilized by LAUSD (i.e. Schoology and Google Classrooms), and resource fairs that provided help for mental health, housing, and substance abuse prevention. All academic instructors were South LA educators with experience working with Black and Brown families.
“We cannot make up for the negative impact and losses that high-need students and families experienced over the last four years, but this settlement can make a real difference in helping target much-needed support and services to families continuing to overcome deep inequities in our education system,” Dominguez continues. Leaders across the state need to ensure we develop, strengthen, and maintain equitable investments. Community Coalition will continue working with the LAUSD to keep their commitment to community-centered equitable policies, like the Student Equity Need Index (SENI) and the Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP), to ensure this settlement is fully realized.