Law Aims for Educational Equity
Williams v. California was a class-action lawsuit filed May 2000 claiming the state’s poorest children were being denied equal educational opportunities. The suit alleged that public school students lacked equal access to instructional materials, safe and decent school facilities, and qualified teachers. Settlement of the lawsuit in August 2004 resulted in a package of laws—known as the “Williams legislation”—aimed at ensuring that all students have the basics of a quality education. The laws expand and create accountability systems so that:
- All students have access to standards-aligned instructional materials and textbooks.
- All students have access to school facilities that are clean, safe, and functional.
- Teachers have the proper certification or training for their assignment, especially those in classrooms with 20 percent or more English Learners.
Focus on Low-Performing Schools
All schools in California must comply with requirements and accountability measures contained in the Williams legislation. But the focus is on the state’s lowest-performing schools, defined as those ranked in the bottom one-third (deciles 1-3) of the Academic Performance Index.
- In Santa Cruz County, 20 schools in 2 districts have been identified as low-performing and subject to action under Williams, including 13 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, and 2 high schools.
- More than 14,000 students in Santa Cruz County are benefiting from Williams Legislation.