Explaining a Major Education Settlement in California - The World News

Explaining a Major Education Settlement in California

The State of California settled a lawsuit last week that had been going on for more than three years, since the height of the debate around pandemic school closures. The case was notable nationally; there have been few others like it. And the settlement included an eye-popping number: $2 billion.

Several families in Oakland and Los Angeles had sued the state, accusing it of failing in its constitutional obligation to provide an equal education to all children in the state, because lower-income, Black and Hispanic students tended to have less access to remote learning in the spring and fall of 2020 than other students did.

It’s important to note that the state — meaning taxpayers — will not pay out any new money under the settlement. Instead, it will take money that was already set aside for pandemic recovery — no less than $2 billion of it — and will direct schools to use it to help students who need it most to catch up. There will be requirements to spend the money on interventions that have a proven track record. You can read more about the settlement here.

Why does this matter?

Because new national data released last week, in a study led by researchers at Stanford and Harvard, made it clear that students across the country are nowhere close to catching up on learning lost during the pandemic.

That is true for students of all backgrounds, but especially for poor students. Schools in poor communities tended to stay closed longer than those in more affluent areas, and when they did, students lost more ground. Once schools reopened, students from richer families have tended to catch up more quickly than students from poorer families in the same districts, according to the new data.

Yet there have been some surprising variations.

In California, Compton Unified, near Los Angeles, and Delano Unified, north of Bakersfield, are examples of lower-income school districts that have recovered remarkably well, at least judging by standardized-test scores. You can read more about bright-spot districts, including Delano Unified, in an article I wrote with my colleagues Claire Cain Miller and Francesca Paris.

Some more affluent districts have had lackluster recoveries in reading, math or both, including Santa Monica-Malibu Unified, Menlo Park City in the Bay Area, and Arcadia Unified in the San Gabriel Valley, northeast of Los Angeles.

Look up your school district and see how it compares to nearby areas and the rest of the state. (Note: This data includes scores for students in third through eighth grades for most public school districts; some small ones are not included. The graphics show only math scores.)

Lakisha Young, the founder of Oakland REACH, a parent organization that worked closely with some families involved in the lawsuit, told me that the plaintiffs would not receive any personal compensation from the settlement.

She said she hoped that the settlement will mean that more students across the state will get the help they need.

“We have a lot of families who are not opening up The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times — they will never know that this lawsuit happened,” she said. But if those parents see their children advancing in reading and math, she said, “then they have won.”

Sarah Mervosh is an education reporter for The Times, focusing on K-12 schools.

The new Sixth Street Bridge in L.A. The Sundial Bridge in Redding. The exceptionally long San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.

Which California bridge is your favorite, and why?

Tell us at [email protected]. Please include your name and the city in which you live.

A recent study in the scientific journal Nature showed that sea otters had helped slow erosion in marshland near Monterey, The Associated Press reports.

The study measured the impact that sea otters had on erosion in a tidal estuary called Elkhorn Slough, where the once-dwindling otter population has started to recover in recent decades thanks to habitat restoration efforts.

The study compared rates of erosion in the estuary before the otters’ return with more recent data and found that the animals had helped stem erosion significantly by eating crabs that burrow deep in the marshland and make its banks less resistant to storms and rough water.

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