This course will examine contemporary American educational law and policy with a particular emphasis on California and school district governance. Students will study and discuss nationally relevant educational law and policy debates and then explore how these debates play out on a state and local level, with a close look at the inner workings of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SMMUSD) administration and Board of Education as a case study. Students will learn about political and legal advocacy within a school district and will grapple with a range of pertinent issues, including equity and access, educational reform and governance, school finance, testing, labor, and charter schools, among others. The class will be taught by Ben Allen, who brings policy-making experience on Capitol Hill, as a UC Regent, and SMMUSD School Board President. Guest speakers will include LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, State Board of Education Vice Chair Ilene Straus, as well as several education law practitioners.
At the completion of the course, students will have gained a deeper understanding of:
• the complex themes that have informed national and state legal and policy debates as they relate to schools and the educational experience;
• the many challenges of local school governance, and how school districts interact and interrelate with courts, the federal government, state government, county government, their school sites, unions, parents, cities, and advocacy groups;
• the constraints, challenges, and opportunities facing California school districts in the current environment;
• effective advocacy strategies inside and outside of a school district;
• the practicalities, challenges, and complexity of local governance and policy-making in general; and
• the political considerations that influence the debate over education and the implementation of educational policy.
Students will visit a school board meeting, write short reflection pieces, do short briefings on educational policy matters, and write a law and/or policy paper on a course-related topic of students' choosing. This is a small seminar course that will not be subject to the curve.