Superior court Judge Rupert Byrdsong today received notice of a wide-ranging settlement in a major education lawsuit brought by students, parents and advocacy groups against the State of California. The lawsuit was the first civil rights action brought under any state constitution to protect students’ right to access to literacy. The ability to read is a foundation for education, which is a right secured by the state constitution. According to a 2012 report prepared by experts engaged by the state, there is an urgent need to address the literacy crisis in California schools, which primarily affects California’s low-income students of color. Under the settlement reached in Ella T. v. State of California, the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond have agreed to provide resources to improve literacy outcomes for the state’s lowest performing schools, adopt a holistic approach to literacy, and provide extra support to the Stockton Unified School District.
“The longest yet most urgent struggle for social justice in America has been for access to literacy,” said Mark Rosenbaum, Directing Attorney at Public Counsel. “The right to read is not just the cornerstone of education, it is the cornerstone of our democracy. Without it, we continue to build a future on the illusion that the haves compete on the same terms with the have nots. This revolutionary settlement, coming nearly 70 long years after Brown v. Board, does not end that struggle, but it invigorates it with the power of children and their communities who insist on the equal opportunity to tell their stories and remake California in the images of all.”