State charged with denying required aid to poor children

The Associated Press
Friday May 17, 2002

LOS ANGELES — California violates a federal law requiring that it provide education help to its poorest children, although it is receiving $1.2 billion in federal funding this year for that purpose, a civil rights group said in a report issued Thursday. 

The failures put California at risk of losing that federal funding, which is provided under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, according to the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights. 

State Secretary of Education Kerry Mazzoni denied the state is about to lose any funding, calling the report’s conclusions “inaccurate and outdated.” 

California is ahead of other states in the “No Child Left Behind” federal program enacted last year, Mazzoni said, by testing students in more grades, by its measures of accountability of school programs and in creation of training programs. 

The civil rights group’s report acknowledged California has made some progress, including rewards for schools showing improvement in student test scores. But the state also created difficulty for school districts by altering “the measures districts use to assess school performance, the standards they use to determine whether schools are effective, and the resources available to low-performing schools,” the commission said. 

“Lack of implementation of Title I, is one key reason the state lags behind most of the nation in student achievement,” said Dianne M. Piche, executive director of the 20-year-old nongovernment commission, which promotes civil rights progress. 

The commission said California gives insufficient funding to schools serving the most needy students, and in testing for accountability of education programs it has shut out more than 900,000 students, including those with limited English and students with disabilities. 

About 400,000 California students were not included in test results because they had not been in schools the state-required minimum of one year, state education officials said Wednesday.