‘Lessons in Lawsuits: The Impact of Litigation on California’s Schools’ finds nearly $100 million spent by 12 districts in three fiscal years
Contact: Maryann Maloney
California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) today released a report on litigation costs to 12 of California’s school districts, finding that in just three fiscal years, these schools spent $98.7 million on lawsuits.
The report examined verdicts, settlements and outside counsel costs to Capistrano Unified, Elk Grove Unified, Fresno Unified, Kern High School, Long Beach Unified, Los Angeles Unified, Merced Union High School, Modesto City, Poway Unified, San Diego Unified, San Juan Unified, and Santa Ana Unified.
“At a time when a record number of our schools are in financial trouble and further education cuts could be looming ahead, we cannot afford to allow these litigation costs to grow unchecked,” said Tom Scott, CALA Executive Director. “California continues to rank among the most litigious states in every study yet we rank at the bottom in many measures of student performance. The more dollars our schools have to pay in litigation costs, the less we have to improve our students’ performance.”
California ranks 45th in 4th grade math and second to last in 8th grade reading. At the same time, the state 46th in the Institute for Legal Reform’s Lawsuit Climate 2010 report and 41st in the 2010 U.S. Tort Liability Index.
“We hear story after story of activities schools are forced to cut, yet no one ever talks about one of the most unpredictable costs of all – litigation.” Scott said. “These numbers reflect just 12 of California’s school districts. With nearly 1,000 in the state, there’s no telling what the total number is.”
The $98.7 million spent in just three years could have been put to much better use across the state. That money could have paid the salaries of more than 1,530 teachers, purchased nearly 600 new school buses, more than 1.1 million school desks or 246,762 desktop computer packages.
In Kern, litigation costs totaled more than $700,000 just for fiscal year 2009. To put that number in perspective, that comes to $21.30 per student, in a district that has already resorted to auctions and recycling to raise cash for its general fund, and where 22,409 students were eligible for free or reduced price lunch in 2009.
“We can’t even afford to bus our kids to school and yet we’re forced to spend more than $2 million in litigation costs in just three years,” said Ken Mettler, Vice-President of the Kern High School District Board of Trustees. “It seems to me we should be looking at ways to get our money out of the courtroom and back into the classroom where it belongs.”
The report can be found in its entirety here
California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to educating the public about the negative effects of lawsuit abuse and challenging those who abuse our legal system for personal gain.