Fair Education Santa Barbara may have lost its appeal case against the Santa Barbara Unified School District and Just Communities Central Coast, but co-founder James Fenkner told the News-Press that Fair Education has “succeeded beyond (his) wildest dreams.”
“By putting this out, it’s encouraged many others to step forward,” he said, referring to other anti-critical race theory groups in the U.S. “Legally, this was a very low probability event of winning.”
He said Fair Education helped spur the critical-race-theory discourse that is hotly debated today. His organization’s lawsuit made it on Fox News @ Night in February 2019.
Mr. Fenkner envisions an audience beyond Fox’s late-night viewers — the U.S. Supreme Court justices. He compared Fair Education’s battle to that of Brown v. Board of Education, therefore comparing SB Unified’s contract with Just Communities to that of racial segregation in schools.
The original lawsuit both challenged the content of Just Communities’ bias training and the school district’s lack of a competitive-bidding process.
The appeal focused only on the no-bid contract, and the appellate court found two exceptions that allowed the district to choose its preferred service provider — upholding the trial court’s ruling.
But many will say the lawsuit wasn’t about the contract; it was about education. Or as Mr. Fenkner said, the curriculum was the “meat and potatoes,” and the contract was the “details.”
“This case was not really about a group that had an issue with the contracting process, but instead an attempt to sidetrack and interrupt the crucial equity work that is needed in order to transform the education system,” SB Unified board President-elect Rose Muñoz said in a news release. “This case was worth fighting for because to us, it was always about the people in the system, not the contract process, and our people are always worth fighting for.”
“This decision, and the previous others that were ruled in our favor, continue to affirm that our work to envision and create an equitable and inclusive Central Coast is worth fighting for,” Melissa G. Patrino, executive director of Just Communities, said in a news release.
Mr. Fenkner has attended Just Communities training and maintains that he believes it is racist. And members of Fair Education have voiced their opposition to Just Communities during school board meetings and have criticized it in social media with claims about critical race theory that scholars have refuted.
Ms. Patrino did not return a request for comment before deadline.
“Our school district’s teachers and leaders will continue the work on closing achievement gaps, improving academics and addressing the social and emotional needs of all students, especially the most vulnerable,” Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said in a news release.
Fair Education’s board has not yet met to discuss its reaction to the appellate court’s decision.