Back in January, the Sacramento Bee ran an article detailing how students in the Twin Rivers Unified School District had to wear “snuggies” and use portable heaters because it was so cold and many of their classrooms lacked a functional heating system. They attributed the problem to aging facilities with units badly in need of repair and replacement. The school district said they were doing their best to keep up with repairs despite a lack of facilities money.
Later in January the Sacramento Bee reported that as students shivered in cold classrooms, there were 140 brand new HVAC units worth $3 million sitting idle, and had been sitting there for years. Finally, on April 2nd, the school district offered up a five month plan to install 71 new HVAC units by the time school starts this coming August.
It was refreshing to finally see movement on this issue, but this stalemate underlies a more serious issue. Twin Rivers is the same school district that since January 2012 has spent more than $2.6 million on litigation costs. In just the months of June and July of 2012, Twin Rivers spent more than $1.3 million.
Litigation is costing school districts millions of dollars every year. CALA did a report back in 2010 titled, Lessons in Lawsuits, The Impact of Litigation on California Schools and we noted that the State Department of Education in June of 2010 identified a record 174 of California’s school districts as financially troubled. This was up 38% from January of that same year.
Yet the litigation keeps coming and the verdicts and settlements keep getting paid out. Additionally, the lawyers keep getting hired to defend the schools. Just recently the Daily Breeze reported that the Centinela Valley School District is averaging $1.7 million a year in legal fees. This school district represents 6,600 students.
Our state’s educational system is a mess and excessive litigation is one of the reasons. We, as citizens, need to be telling all of our elected officials that we need legal reform to stop this nonsense. Excessive lawsuits are costing our children an education and legal reform can help fix it.