A group of students and teachers is suing the state of California, charging the education department has no program to adequately teach children how to read.
"When it comes to literacy and the delivery of basic education, California is dragging down the nation," said Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer with the advocacy law firm Public Counsel.
Plaintiffs include current and former students from two Los Angeles-area elementary schools and one school from Stockton, California — a town east of San Francisco.
The lawsuit demands the department of education implement recommendations to improve student literacy that the state made in 2012.
The suit also charges California with failing to carry out its constitutional duties to make sure all children get an education.
At one Los Angeles school, less than 10 of 179 students tested met state English standards this year.
One of the plaintiffs, retired kindergarten teacher David Moch, recalled having fifth graders in his class because they never learned to read at the proper level.
"We need citizens that can read. We need citizens that can vote," he said. "Once you get behind, if there's no intervention, there's no catching up. The level of work is getting more intense and multiplies at every level."
California state education officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.