Report Card

News and discussion on K-12 schools in the greater Sacramento region

July 22, 2013
Federal judge denies bid to block Sacramento campus closures

A federal judge on Monday denied a bid by parents seeking to prevent Sacramento City schools from closing seven elementary campuses, saying blocking the district was not warranted based on the evidence plaintiffs presented in court.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, in her 39-page ruling denying a request for a preliminary injunction, said that the plaintiffs "do not have a fair chance of success on the merits" of their claims.

A dozen students and their parents filed suit last month in federal court, complaining that the Sacramento City Unified School District chose to close campuses in low-income and predominately minority neighborhoods that are "without political influence or organization" and, instead, keep other schools open in predominately white neighborhoods.

School officials have said the closures are necessary to help balance the budget and estimated the district can save millions of dollars over several years by eliminating campuses that are underutilized.

The school district issued a statement after the ruling signaling that officials there are ready to move forward.

"Closing schools is never easy, and the decision to close seven chronically under-enrolled schools was difficult for all involved," the statement said. "With Judge Mueller's ruling today, SCUSD hopes to finally put closures in the past and move forward with our challenging work of providing the best education we can to the students we serve throughout the district."

The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Mark Merin and the community group, Hmong Innovating Politics, issued their own statement to the media, expressing disappointment.

Plaintiff Lisa Romero, vice president of Joseph Bonnheim's Parent Teacher Association, said she respected the judge's decision but was heartbroken "by the terrible consequences these school closures will have on my children and our neighborhood."

Merin, in his written statement, noted that the case was difficult "when we were prevented from showing that the reasons given for closing schools, or for selecting those specific schools for closure, such as budgetary reasons or efficiency, were pretextual."

Hinting that litigation could continue, Merin said, "We still have an opportunity to do that as this litigation goes forward."

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About Report Card

Loretta KalbLoretta Kalb started her reporting career at The Sacramento Union, moved to KOVR-13 as a television reporter, editor and producer, headed to The Associated Press in San Francisco and eventually returned to Sacramento and joined The Sacramento Bee. Throughout her career, she has covered the state Legislature, courts, local government and, now, education. She is a Chico native and an Elk Grove resident.

Diana LambertDiana Lambert began her journalism career as a proofreader at the Lodi News-Sentinel. She is now a senior writer at The Sacramento Bee covering K-12 education and California State University, Sacramento. Previously she was The Bee’s Elk Grove bureau chief. Lambert was raised in a military family and lived at bases around the globe. She attended four high schools, graduating from Tokay High in Lodi and then Sacramento State University. She lives in Elk Grove.

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Twitter: @LorettaSacBee
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