Since my first-blush post on the new education adequacy suit, Robles-Wong v. California, filed last week against the state by school districts and various school lobbies, I've received several thoughtful missives from people in schools, in government and in the non-profit sector asking: Why are you so optimistic about this suit?
Their argument: such litigation -- known as adequacy litigation, because the suits question whether the education resources are adequate -- has a mixed record at best of improving school funding. And in California, judges have stepped into other funding and policy messes -- in the budget, in the prisons, in water -- without making things much better.
These are strong points, and they've backed me off some -- but not all -- of my hopes for the suit. But the lawsuit, if it gains any traction (and that's a huge if), is right in its depiction of an entire state budget and school funding system that has grown so complicated it no longer does what it's supposed to do: fund the schools.
And even if the lawsuit fails, simply pursuing it may have the benefit of giving the public a clearer picture of what's gone wrong in California, as the author Peter Schrag argues persuasively in Sunday's Sacramento Bee: "Yet in calling attention to California's glaring inconsistency in educational policy – high standards and ambitious goals unmatched by anything approaching commensurate resources – the Robles-Wong suit may yet move the state and its voters a little closer to connecting the dots."