John T. AffeldtManaging Attorney

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

“Until the children furthest from opportunity have the fullest opportunities, we will not have justice and I will not stop fighting to improve our schools.”

–John Affeldt

John Affeldt (he/him/his) is a managing attorney at Public Advocates in San Francisco where, since 1991, he has focused on educational equity issues through litigation, policy advocacy and power-building with grassroots organizations. At Public Advocates, John has both served as a lead counsel on major ground-breaking lawsuits including Williams v. California,  Community Coalition v. LAUSD, and  Campaign for Quality Education v. California and spear-headed a shift toward the organization’s community partnership model of movement lawyering.

Williams v. California resulted in a breakthrough 2004 settlement guaranteeing California’s students sufficient instructional materials, decent facilities and qualified teachers; Community Coalition v. LAUSD brought $150 million in services to low-income students, English language learners and foster youth in Los Angeles; Campaign for Quality Education v. California challenged the state’s under-funding of public schools and informed later statutory finance reforms.

John also 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 certified 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; and a 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.

Since 2000, John has worked in partnership with grassroots organizations to build the education justice infrastructure in California and inject community-based voices into state educational policymaking. These efforts have yielded significant equity reforms in state school finance, teacher quality and accountability policies. In particular, John has helped to shape several provisions of California’s school funding law known as the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), one of the nation’s most progressive finance systems. These wins 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. Other efforts have broken down discriminatory barriers to the teaching profession and led to the establishment of a $113 million Community Engagement Initiative to improve district community engagement practices.

John is a founding member of a number of grassroots, community-based and advocacy coalitions, including the California Partnership for the Future of Learning, the Campaign for Quality Education, Parents and Students for Great Schools, and the LCFF Equity Coalition.

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 three times, by California Lawyer Magazine in 2005, by the Recorder in 2010, and by the Daily Journal in 2018
  • Named a Leading Plaintiff Lawyer in America by Lawdragon Magazine in 2007
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