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March 22, 2024 - MoFo Pro Bono

MoFo Secures $2 Billion for California Students

Morrison Foerster recently secured at least $2 billion in funding to support California students who fell behind during the COVID-19 pandemic—one of the largest education-related settlements in U.S. history. The funding settles a lawsuit brought on behalf of low-income students in Black and Latinx communities over the state’s failure to provide children with adequate access to remote education during pandemic school closures, and its subsequent failure to offer services necessary to overcome these children’s disproportionate learning losses.

Under the settlement agreement in Cayla J. v. the State of California, local education agencies will allocate a minimum of $2 billion from the existing Learning Emergency Block Grant Funds toward programs that are proven to improve student performance. The funding must be directed to the lowest‑performing students in the school district, who will be identified using a data-driven “needs assessment” process that incorporates academic performance in math and English language arts, as well as absenteeism rates. School districts will be required to measure and report on the effectiveness of these programs for the populations they serve.

Notably, the proposed legislation marks a first for California by enabling funds to be directed to community organizations with documented success in improving student achievement. Each local education agency will devise a plan and evidence-based programs tailored to the students it serves as part of the annual Local Control and Accountability Plan, with obligatory reporting on program success using measurable outcomes. Moreover, the public will have recourse to file complaints related to these plans under the Uniform Complaint Procedure, recognizing that the education of the next generation is a matter that impacts every resident of California.

“MoFo is proud to have worked with Public Counsel, Oakland REACH, and Community Coalition to achieve this historic settlement for the students of California whose education was most severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael Jacobs, who led MoFo’s pro bono team for Cayla J. v. State of California before his recent retirement from the firm. “This case is yet another example of the firm’s commitment to quality education for all in our State.” 

In addition to Jacobs, the MoFo team was comprised of Palo Alto partners Lily Li and Erik Olson, Los Angeles partner Purvi Patel, San Diego partner John Lanham, Palo Alto associates Chelsea Kehrer and Max Levy, and San Francisco associate Ian Bennett.

MoFo co-counseled the case with Public Counsel, a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice. The Oakland REACH and Community Coalition, who were also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, have continued their involvement as supportive partners.

Learn more about MoFo’s commitment to pro bono work.