California Educator

October/November 2020

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Editor's note: A law originally designed to create equity among students needs to be updated for our times. This year's pandemic is just the latest event to lay bare what the author calls "glaring and gaping inequities"; he argues that to keep the spirit of the Williams case, it must evolve. I N 2 0 0 0 , the lawsuit Williams v. State of California was brought to U.S. Supe- rior Court in San Francisco. In it, families claimed that school districts were not providing the same resources to lower-income families as more affluent schools. Four years later, the families won a settlement agreement, and Gov. Schwarzenegger signed several bills into law. Among other things, a budget of $25 million exists annually so that every Califor- nia school is proven to be equitable, lower- performing schools like mine especially. Fast forward to 2020. Once a year, my school is visited in early fall by a team of people from the Williams case investigation committee. I must place all four adopted textbooks on top of each stu- dent's desk, as investigators count them to determine that each child has all the resources they need. They inspect a cabinet or two, to ensure the school is safe from things like Glade plug-ins and hand sanitizer (apologies to my staff in '13). And at some point, my district shows that my credentials and certificates are up-to-date to ensure that I am a quality teacher. Checking their tally sheet, investiga- tors move on to another Title I school. And that's it. The function of the Williams settlement was to provide parents assurances that they can expect equity in all classrooms. Spending $25 million to check off books and hazardous materials isn't just outdated, it's embarrassing. Putting books in the desks of my bright, hardworking, and simply amazing children is literally the least we can do to provide equity in schools. If the COVID pandemic doesn't show us the glaring and gap- ing inequities that exist in my Title I school, then I don't know what can. We can do better. The Williams case should be revisited, updated and amended. Here's how we start. Amendment #1: Working technology, not whatever parents can afford Every student in California should have access to a working computer for school and home usage, as well as high-speed internet. It struck me in March to learn that 87 percent of my school population did not have a work- ing computer to use at home. Nearly as many did not have reliable Wi-Fi. I had students skateboarding with their tablets and phones to sit in the dirt outside the school chain link fence just so they could join in my class lesson! It is unacceptable that computers, which comprise a fraction of our school budgets, should be sitting in carts instead of in the hands of students who need them. Most curricula are now online, and teachers across the nation used software platforms to accept student work even before COVID-19. Amendment #2: Health, not sometime health services Every student and their family in California should have access to a nurse, a counselor, and a school psychologist any day of the week. My school is funded for a nurse three days a week, a counselor two days a week, and a school psychologist two days a week. These personnel travel between as many as three and four schools each week, despite the 600 students we serve at our site alone. As a parent and teacher at my school site, "Spending $25 million to check off books and hazardous materials isn't just outdated, it's embarrassing." The Williams Case Revisited Law ensuring student equity urgently needs an update By Thomas Courtney 15 O C T O B E R / N O V E M B E R 2 0 2 0 Spotlight

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