learn / 2020

Establishing a legal right to a high quality public education

Establishing a legal right to a high quality public education

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Kids Coalition

Creating a legal right to a high quality public education either by passing an LAUSD policy to establish a legal right to a high quality public education for the children of Los Angeles in 2021; or by establishing a constitutional right to a high quality public education for the children of California via a 2022 ballot initiative. An LA2050 grant would support legal drafting, public opinion testing, coalition building, and community organizing.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • South Bay
  • Antelope Valley
  • County of Los Angeles
  • LAUSD (please select only if you have a district-wide partnership or project)

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Research (initial work to identify and understand the problem)

If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.

This project is not being submitted as a formal collaboration but many partner organizations are engaged already. Kirkland & Ellis is doing the drafting and legal analysis pro bono, and has committed to representing public school parents pro bono after passage to enforce the right for their children. Emma Bloomberg’s organization has already done preliminary polling with encouraging results and has committed to fund additional focus groups and polling as an in-kind donation. And I am working with multiple partner organizations to build grassroots support including at various stages of development: La Comadre, Students for Education Reform, CCSA, The Economic Mobility Collaborative, Allies for Educational Equity, LAUSD school board allies, PTA, TFA, Ed Trust, USC Center EDGE.

What is the need you’re responding to?

In theory, the purpose of public education is to serve students. However, students cannot vote, their parents cannot afford lobbyists, and they have no formal power to impact laws and policies that mandate them to attend school and govern how their schools operate – despite the fact that those laws and policies often directly impact the trajectory of their lives.

The relegation of student interests to the sidelines of education policymaking isn’t an esoteric issue. While a generation ago California’s public education system was considered a national model, California is now the least educated state in America. According to the US Census, California ranks last in the percentage of residents with a high school diploma. California ranks 37th in educational quality according to US News and World Report. And the average LAUSD student has less than a 50% chance to graduate with qualifications to even apply to a public university.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?

The focus of my work over the past two decades has not been on a particular policy, school model, or ideology. It has been on unrigging the education bureaucracy for students. I launched a First 5 universal preschool program in Los Angeles. I founded Parent Revolution and passed California’s parent trigger law to empower low income parents at the grassroots level to advocate for the interests of their children. I helped launch the Vergara civil rights litigation to establish constitutional rights for low income children and children of color via impact litigation. And I’ve been organizing around this theory of change for the past 4 years. Kids Coalition exists specifically to reorient the incentive structures of public education to serve the interests of students. Kids Coalition can’t do this alone. This movement cannot succeed without parents, students, educators, and civil rights advocates leading. But Kids Coalition is uniquely designed to help organize this theory of change.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Establishing a “kids first” constitutional right would empower parents to legally challenge: school calendars or schedules that inhibit the developmental needs of students; laws that elevate seniority above quality in the management of educators; school attendance boundaries that force kids to attend failing schools; laws that fund district bureaucracies at the expense of kids in the classroom; policies that inhibit access to art education; and laws that restrict the right of parents to choose the best public school for their children. This isn’t about changing any single law or embracing any single ideology. As with other civil rights, it is designed to evolve over time as society’s understanding of what it means to put kids first evolves.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

The Corona Virus pandemic will ebb and flow. In 12 to 18 months there will be a vaccine. And eventually we will begin to physically, economically, and existentially recover. When that happens, society will be faced with a stark choice: to rebuild our institutions to loosely resemble the status quo ante, or to reimagine them to serve the children of this brave new world. Passing a legal right to a high quality public education would not embrace any single policy, school model, or ideology. Instead it would establish a new North Star to reject the false choices of the past and guide the rebuilding of our future institutions to put students first.

We are in the midst of a global calamity. Rising to this challenge will define a generation. No “good” that comes from this or any other disaster can ever justify any carnage in any way. But President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative driving the first wave of progressive kids-first reform in the wake of the Great Recession wasn’t an historical anomaly. The Great Depression laid the groundwork for the New Deal. Windows for transformational change often follow moments of social and economic upheaval.

I would define success as being positioned to seize this moment and empower parents, students, and educators to fundamentally put the interests of all students first when the time comes to send our children back to school and rebuild our educational institutions.

Which of the learn metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Arts education
  • College matriculation
  • High school graduation rates

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?

  • LA is the best place to CREATE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?

  • Access to the LA2050 community
  • Host public events or gatherings
  • Communications support
  • Office space for meetings, events, or for staff
  • Capacity, including staff
  • Strategy assistance and implementation