February 22, 2024—Ed Source’s John Fensterwald covered Public Advocates’ virtual press conference where PA Managing Attorney John Affeldt, Deputy Managing Attorney Nicole Gon Ochi, pro bono partner Goodwin Procter LLP, and impacted students, families, residents, and grassroots community organizations demanded the governor, and various state officials and agencies, end grossly unequal and unconstitutional disparities in California’s school facility funding program or face legal action.

Fensterwald covered the issue to create a fairer system for subsidizing the costs of school facilities which PA attorneys demanded, on behalf of their complainants, must be as equitable as the Local Control Funding Formula, the decade-old formula for funding schools’ operating budgets. Attorneys, parents, administrators, and community members spoke out about inadequate and unhealthy school buildings arguing that the school facilities money discriminated against lower wealth districts. Wealthier districts take up most of the state’s matching dollars to modernize their schools while lower wealth districts don’t even qualify for money to build similar types of buildings.

“Study after study has acknowledged the open secret here: Some districts get to build swimming pools and performing arts centers, while others suffer through leaky roofs and black mold,” said John Affeldt, Public Advocates’ managing attorney and director of education equity. Citing a 2022 study by the Public Policy Institute of California, he said that lower-wealth districts have received nearly 60% less state modernization funding than higher-wealth districts since 1998.

“The discriminatory design of the state’s facility funding system is no accident,” he said. “It has been intentionally baked into the system, and its disparate results are wholly foreseeable.”

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