June 30, 2024
Media Contact: Sumeet Bal, Director of Communications,, 917.647.1952

Civil Rights Law Firm Blasts Legislature for Proposing Discriminatory School Bond; Lawsuit Possible if Equity Not Addressed

San Francisco—Public Advocates, a civil rights law firm, sharply criticized the $10 billion school bond proposal legislative leaders proposed today for the November 2024 ballot based on its failure to fix a decades-long inequitable distribution formula that discriminates against low-wealth school districts.  If approved by the legislature on or before July 3, 2024 and then voters on Election Day, this bond will continue to deliver more state bond funds to wealthier districts with higher assessed property values and more capacity to raise local bonds.

Public Advocates, pro bono counsel Goodwin Proctor LLP, and impacted students, families, residents, and grassroots community organizations submitted a demand letter to state officials in February 2024, advising that the state is vulnerable to a legal challenge regarding its discriminatory school facility funding program which has been well-documented by numerous public and academic studies.  In the subsequent months, the organization and its experts have provided state leadership a roadmap and specific sliding scale proposals that would create a lawful, equitable capital finance system supporting districts most in need of modernization support.

“As someone who works on the ground with local communities, I have heard story after story of how structural racism and state-sanctioned wealth discrimination in school facility funding have impacted communities of color across California,” said Nicole Gon Ochi, Deputy Managing Attorney at Public Advocates. “If the state fails to put an equitable bond on the November ballot that fixes these glaring inequities, we will have to consider pursuing legal action on behalf of the students, families, and community organizations we represent.”

An equitable bond would address historic, compounded, and often racialized disinvestment in lower-wealth communities by providing more state resources to low-wealth communities (based on assessed property values) who have less local capacity to provide safe and healthy spaces for students and communities. For over 25 years, California has exacerbated local wealth disparities by providing more state funding to wealthier districts who can produce larger local matches, subjecting students and staff in lower-wealth districts—many of whom are disproportionately low-income, Black, Latinx, and English learners—to unequal, outdated, unsuitable, and–in some cases–unsafe facilities. 

“Legislative leaders have been on notice since February that the bond bill needs a major equity overhaul to reverse decades of distributing facility quality based on local district wealth. Today’s proposal utterly ignores the call for equity and the needs of students in low-wealth districts; if anything, this proposal further advantages relatively well-off urban districts, over poor urban and rural districts like Lynwood and those in rural Monterey County. We call on the legislature and the governor to reject this unconstitutional discrimination. There’s still time to adopt an equitable solution,” said John Affeldt, Managing Attorney and Director of Education Equity for Public Advocates

“Del Norte county is the most northern county in the state with a small population and tax base. The unfair funding distribution of state money makes me feel as though our community is an afterthought because we are not receiving equitable resources to maintain a healthy and safe space for our children to learn and grow,” said Briannon “Brie” Fraley, Del Norte Unified School District parent, citizen of Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, True North Organizing Network parent leader

“Without strong equity provisions for state matching dollars, a state bond will not adequately address the unique challenges faced by districts like Lynwood,” said Dr. Gary Hardie Jr., a Lynwood alumnus and school board member. “In Lynwood—which has seen historic disinvestment through redlining and other targeted harmful policies—we’re seeing firsthand how climate change and aging infrastructure create serious challenges for our schools which desperately need modernization. However, our lower property values also mean we can’t bond for as much as wealthier communities, limiting our access to state matching funds. We need a bond that recognizes these economic realities and provides equitable access to state matching funds for all California students. This proposal isn’t it.”


Public Advocates Inc. is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing, transportation equity and climate justice.


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