Students and teachers said California had no plans to teach children to read. Now, the state has to pay $ 53 million

On Thursday, a judge approved an agreement that the state must pay $ 53 million to improve literacy in schools across the state.

Under the financial terms of the deal, most of the money, $ 50 million, will go to help 75 low-performing elementary schools, so that they can develop and implement personalized three-year action plans.

The remaining $ 3 million from the settlement will be used by a literacy expert to help develop the state’s literacy action plan and identify where training is needed.

Mark Rosenbaum, Public Counsel attorney, who filed the case, said in a statement: “The right to reading is not only the cornerstone of education, it is the cornerstone of our democracy. Without it, we continue to build a future on the illusion that the rich compete on the same terms with the poor.

“This revolutionary settlement, which comes almost 70 long years after Brown v. Board, does not end this struggle, but reinvigorates it with the power of children and their communities who insist on equal opportunities to tell their stories and remake California in everyone’s pictures. “

Vicky Waters, press secretary at the Governor’s Office, told CNN in a statement: “California is committed to filling the opportunity gaps by addressing further support and resources to districts and schools serving students who need additional help. This work started with the local Control Financing Formula and continues this year with the Governor (Gavin) Newsom has proposed $ 600 million of investment in the Opportunity Grant and enveloping services for low-performing and high-poverty schools. ”

“California is breaking down the nation”

The lawsuit was filed in December 2017 at the Los Angeles state court.

“When it comes to literacy and basic education, California is breaking down the nation,” said the complaint.

Currently 45 million Americans are functionally illiterate and cannot read above a fifth grade level, according to the Foundation of literacy project. Only 25% of students in California’s school systems are able to perform basic reading skills and about a third of fourth grade children reach the level of proficient reading.

The literacy proficiency of the students mentioned in the complaint varies, with most performances at the bottom of 5% of their grade, and others read several grades below their actual grade and fail the state’s performance tests.

“As for literacy and basic education measures, in the country’s 200 largest school districts, California has 11 of the 26 lowest-performing districts, including three of the 10 lowest-performing districts,” according to the complaint.

According to the lawsuit, the writing of Ella T., a second-grade student who was the first plaintiff named in the lawsuit, showed many “literacy deficits”, but the state mandated that “she should” be able to “introduce a argument, ” use facts and definitions to develop points ‘and’ use link words (e.g. why, and also). ‘ “

But in a sample of her writings shown below, the basic words are misspelled and she was unable to form a complete sentence.

An example of the level of competence in writing a second grade in a Californian school

Former teacher complains about ‘school-prison pipeline’

David Moch, a former La Salle elementary school teacher and one of the supporters of the case, said in a press conference that the lack of funding, support and the absence of “culturally relevant material” prevented him from teaching his students the reading and writing skills they needed.

“I have taught for over 20 years in a community with a high custody rate, a large low-income population and a high crime rate, yet I know that my students, although brilliant and capable, were not always able to live at the their full potential because they were often stifled by the lack of adequate literacy education, “he said.

The students who had the most problems at school were generally the ones who needed the most literate help, Moch said.

“However, when the resources are not there to provide that literacy support, this contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline and reinforces the negative stigma and stereotypes about youth in my community,” he said.

“Children count on us”

The state recognized the need to implement a state literacy plan, according to the group’s 2017 complaint. However, the plaintiffs claimed that the state did not “take sufficient measures” to make sure that literacy education was available to all children.

“As a result, the state continues to allow children from disadvantaged communities to attend schools that are unable to offer them the opportunity to obtain basic literacy,” says the complaint.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner told CNN in a statement that the deal is a step in the right direction, but it is small.

“There is talent everywhere in every classroom at each of the 1,386 Unified Los Angeles schools,” he said. “But there is not always an opportunity. We have work to do and the children are counting on us.”

Stephanie Becker contributed to this report.

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