California will have to $2 billion in pandemic relief funds to combat learning loss, thanks to a lawsuit from parents, one of the largest education-related settlements in the country’s history.
A settlement was reached last week in Alameda County Superior Court between the state and a group of families in Los Angeles and Oakland who said their children suffered severe learning loss thanks to remote learning.
“Between March and June of 2020, neither of my children learned anything in school,” said one of the parents in the case, who is from the Los Angeles area.
The lawsuit argued that California had failed to make sure local school districts spent federal money meant for learning loss on the students who needed the most help catching up.
Under the settlement, California schools must spend the $2 billion on things like tutoring to help students who have fallen far behind.
Another part of the settlement involves the state agreeing to propose a new law that would let funds be spent on “community organizations with a proven track record of improving student success.”
Both of the parent groups that sued have programs for struggling students.
“This $2 billion-plus settlement is a history-making win, but money can’t solve anything if we don’t put it to good use,” said Lakisha Young, founder of parent group The Oakland REACH said.
“We all must advocate for these funds to be used for solutions that put parents and caregivers in the driver’s seat and are proven to get kids reading,” Young said.
The president of the other parent group, Community Coalition, called the settlement a “huge victory and much-deserved investment” in California’s minority students, whom he said are still feeling the impact of the pandemic.
“The urgent vision of this historic settlement is not just to recoup the academic losses suffered by California’s most disadvantaged students, but to erase the opportunity gaps altogether exacerbated by the pandemic,” said attorney Mark Rosenbaum of the non-profit law firm Public Counsel, which represented the plaintiffs.
Remote learning, which persisted in California long after many other areas had returned to in-person classes, has caused significant learning loss among K-12 students.
Parents and teachers hoped kids would learn more quickly to catch up, but those hopes have not been realized. Last year, one study showed fourth through eighth graders making even slower academic progress in reading and math in 2022 than before the pandemic.
Students would need an average of four and a half months of extra math instruction and just over four months of additional reading instruction to catch up to the typical pre-COVID student, the study estimated.