Williams v. California: Lessons From Nine Years of Implementation
Books to study. Clean, safe and functional classrooms. Qualified teachers.
Students in all of California's public schools deserve at least these basic necessities for educational opportunity. The plaintiffs in the historic Williams v. California lawsuit fought for this principle, and on September 29, 2004, when legislation implementing the settlement agreement was signed into law, they helped to usher in a new era for public education in California.
Today, the ACLU of Southern California celebrates the nine-year anniversary of this landmark settlement with the release of a report, Williams v. California: Lessons From Nine Years of Implementation. The report examines the long-term impact of Williams and demonstrates how the standards and accountability systems established by the Settlement Legislation have significantly improved conditions for all students, and for students attending California's lowest-performing schools in particular.
The outcomes detailed in the report are truly remarkable. Williams has put hundreds of thousands of textbooks into the hands of students who otherwise would not have had books to study from at home. Many districts have changed their hiring practices as a result of Williams to ensure teachers have the appropriate training and credentials to teach their classes and students. Schools are reporting fewer unsafe facilities conditions despite daunting fiscal challenges that have made it increasingly difficult to properly maintain classrooms and buildings. Williams is working.
Nine years of implementing the settlement legislation have shown the power of clear standards, strong accountability systems and a focus on students' needs. Notably, Williams has been responsible for preserving key educational equity standards throughout years of unprecedented state budget deficits.
Now, with California on the cusp of implementing the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Common Core State Standards, the Williams standards and accountability systems are as vitally important as ever. In fact, of the eight priorities the State of California recently established under the LCFF for all schools, the first is ensuring that all students receive the necessities promised by Williams.
The report includes specific recommendations for how the State can fulfill this promise, drawing from the lessons learned over the past nine years. Experience has shown that continued vigilance and willingness to adjust are necessary for progress to be sustained. Our schools need increased resources and efficient modern data and accountability systems if we are going to reach the day envisioned by the Williams student plaintiffs — a day where every child, regardless of where she lives in California, can go to school, confident that she will have all the books she needs to study; a clean, safe and functional classroom and a qualified teacher.