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Policy Updates

California Policy Updates
by Liz Guillen

Liz Guillen is the Policy Advocate for Public Advocates, Inc., a public interest civil rights law firm based in San Francisco. Liz supports the efforts of community and grassroots groups around the state to promote the cause of educational justice in Sacramento.




The most significant legislation aimed at closing the education opportunity gap was passed in the final days of the 2003-04 legislative session when the California Senate and Assembly passed four bills to fulfill the settlement in the Williams v. State lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed over four years ago, on the Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The plaintiffs are Eliezer Williams and over a million other students trapped in the worst schools with no chance to meet the State’s standards because their schools do not provide basic tools such as textbooks and trained teachers, and their school buildings are overcrowded, dilapidated, filthy and unhealthy.

The State spent nearly $20 million to defend and delay the lawsuit, but on August 13, Governor Schwarzenegger acknowledged that it is ultimately the State’s responsibility to ensure basic equality in learning conditions. On August 27, the Legislature passed SB 550, SB 6, AB 1550 and AB 3001, defining standards for textbooks, teachers and facilities, establishing an accountability system to make sure schools provide these basic necessities, and providing new money to back it up. Here are highlights from those bills:

Community advocates statewide are gearing up to learn the specific responsibilities and rights created by the new legislation. Each of us -- students, parents, educators and community advocates – has a role to ensure the rights promised in the Williams settlement and this legislation become a reality.


For more information about the Williams settlement or the legislation, contact Liz Guillen at (916) 442-3385, or John Affeldt and Jenny Pearlman at (416) 431-7430 at Public Advocates, Inc. See our website at www.publicadvocates.org. For a copy of the legislation, go to www.leginfo.ca.gov, click on Bill Information and enter the bill number.