April 10, 2013

What does accountability look like? 

        In May 17, 2000, civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit against the State of California because of the terrible conditions in many of its public schools (the Williams v. California case).  Students, parents, and teachers argued that the State was failing to provide thousands of public school students, particularly those in low-income communities and communities of color, with the basic necessities required for an education. 
        After four years, in August 2004, the parties agreed to a settlement.  The Williams settlement created new education standards and accountability systems with mandatory timelines.  It also provided nearly $1 billion to help the lowest-performing schools correct their problems. 
       One of the most important accountability tools created by the settlement was a process that gave all students, parents, teachers, and community members the right to file a complaint when students were being denied sufficient textbooks, qualified teachers or decent school facilities. 
        Prior to the Williams settlement, claims of “discrimination” needed to be based on a child’s ethnicity, special education status or English language fluency. “Now, anyone who sees a hazard can file a complaint about unacceptable conditions in a school.” Says Marc Tafolla.  “Most importantly, Williams complaints work.”

Watch "The Fixer," the New American Media video.
See how the process happened in elementary schools in Oakland and Richmond. Marc Tafolla, of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights (San Francisco) of the Education Opportunity Project (EOP) is helping local individuals and groups fix schools using the landmark Williams v.s. California case that mandates clean and safe facilities, qualified teachers and up-to-date text books in California schools.