Williams v. California


On May 17, 2000, Eliezer Williams and nearly 100 students from the San Francisco area, with the help of many civil rights organizations, filed suit against the state of California in response to the deplorable conditions and lack of resources found in many low-income, high minority schools.  The case hinged on the fact that many low-income students of color attended schools that were lacking basic necessities such as an adequate supply of books, a teacher with sufficient experience and training, and buildings that were well maintained including working heat and air conditioning.  These conditions were in sharp contrast to wealthier schools which were well equipped with supplies and personnel to meet the expectations and needs of parents and students (UCLA, 2004).  Failing to supply students with the basic necessities was denying them the fundamental right of an equal education.


September 29, 2004, the signing of five bills (SB 550 & AB 2727, AB 1550, AB 3001, and SB 6) into law marked the successful conclusion of the Williams v. California lawsuit.  The settlement required all California public schools: provide sufficient textbooks, instructional materials, clean, safe, and well maintained schools, as well as qualified teachers in the classroom (Chung, 2013).  The settlement included the continued monitoring of schools to ensure that the standards set are maintained and holds schools accountable for continuing to meet the standard set by the law.


The monitoring of the Williams settlement has been an important factor to ensure students have the basic necessities.  Each year representatives come to the school sites and complete a Williams’s assessment.  They look for adequate text books.  They speak with the administration and teachers and ask for information regarding facility maintenance.  This process can be an asset to schools.  Because of the Williams visits some building maintenance is addressed that might otherwise not be completed (Chung, 2013).  This settlement also established the Williams Complaint Procedure. This procedure provides all stakeholders an opportunity to get involved and alert the school district to any issues that may violate the Williams settlement.


Even in times of economic crisis, such as the economic downturn beginning in 2009, the Williams settlement provided a safety net for students.  Budgets saw dramatic cuts and districts were forced to reduce staff and materials, but legislation ensured that schools continue to provide basic necessities to students including instructional materials and qualified staff (Chung, 2013).  This has forced districts to dedicate monies to ensure that all students are attending school in an environment where learning is accessible, but the Williams settlement does not ensure equality or adequacy.  Students must have books, but the age and quality of the books does not need to be the same from school to school.  For example school A may have new anthologies while school B has the same set that has been used for several of years.  Both schools have access to the curriculum, but the materials themselves may differ in quality.


Williams has only provided a baseline for what should be done to ensure adequate opportunities for students.  School funding procedures must still be analyzed to ensure all students are receiving what they need to access the curriculum and achieve academically.



Chung, S. (2013). Williams v. California: Lessons from nine years of implementation. Retrieved May 16, 2015, from http://decentschools.org/settlement/Williams_v_California_Lessons_From_Nine_Years_Of_Implementation.pdf

Claxon. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2015, from http%3A%2F%2Fwww.claxonmarketing.com%2F2014%2F02%2F04%2Fequity-vs-equality%2F

Maxwell, L. A. (2013, October 8). Educational equity. Retrieved May 16, 2015, from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/10/09/07report-5.h33.html?tkn=RXZFVmUKVZRGDHxQY7F1ternf3%2F7%2BGMfujFh&print=1

News & Policy: Williams v. California. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2015, from http://justschools.gseis.ucla.edu/news/williams/

Powers, J. M. (2004). High-stakes accountability and equity: using evidence from California’s Public Schools Accountability Act to address the issues in Williams v. State of California. American Educational Research Journal, 41(4), 763-795.

The Williams Case — An Explanation. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2015, from http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/ce/wc/wmslawsuit.asp

UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, & Access. (2004). Williams versus California [Brochure]. Los Angeles, CA: Author.


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