California’s highest court yesterday declined to review the decisions of two lower courts that had ruled that although education is a “fundamental right” under the state constitution, there was “no explicit textual basis from which a constitutional right to a public school education of a particular quality may be discerned.” Plaintiffs in these two related cases, Coalition for Quality Education v. California and Robles-Wong v. California had argued that even with recent increases in state aid, the State’s funding scheme is entirely divorced from educational realities and actual costs, and the State’s continued reliance upon it constitutes a violation of the state constitution.
The California Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims. By a close 4-3 vote, they merely exercised their discretion not to accept an appeal of the ruling of the State Court of Appeal. Although the majority did not provide any reasons for their decision not to hear the case, two of the dissenting judges wrote strong opinions that criticized the majority for not allowing plaintiffs their day in court. Justice Liu stated that “We should not leave the schoolchildren of California to wonder whether their fundamental right to education under our state Constitution has real content or is simply hortatory.” Justice Cuellar opined that that “[T]he question whether our state Constitution demands some minimum level of educational quality, as opposed to resolving precisely how schools should be administered, lies at the core of what this institution is empowered to adjudicate.” Justice Liu also added that “[I]t is possible that the complexion of the issue and, in turn, this court’s posture may change if our education system further stagnates or worsens.”