Make education a right

This is for all my teacher colleagues who keep wanting to ignore politics and wish that it had nothing to do with education.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) just reported on the decision of the Rhode Island Supreme Court in a case that challenged inequities in funding a public schools across the tiny state; a common issue in many, if not most states. The Court decided against the plaintiffs, and part of their reasoning was this:

…the court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims that the funding formula violated their substantive due process and equal protection rights under the state constitution because there is no fundamental right to an education. [Emphasis added]

Let that sink in for a minute.  Education is not a fundamental right of every American child?

Well, not in Rhode Island. What about Mississippi? New York? California? Might want to check your state constitutions.

The plaintiffs in this case argued that the state funding formula for schools resulted in many children receiving an inferior education. The Court’s interpretation was this:

The court rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that their right to education has been compromised because of their districts’ diminished financial ability. The court stated that “[d]isparities in per student expenditure resulting from the application of the formula, while very unfortunate, are not unconstitutional. It is for the legislature to determine what that minimum constitutionally required education foundation to be.”

The report continues:

…the court stated that the Education Clause [of the state] does not confer a fundamental or constitutional right to education, nor does it guarantee an “equal, adequate, and meaningful education.” Also, the court stated it has consistently held that the education clause “vests in the General Assembly sole responsibility in the field of education,”

I need some legal minds to weigh in on this, and what it means for the larger national discussion of public education, but I find this disturbing. It implies that education is a legislated program that can be operated, maintained, or eliminated at the whim of those legislatures.

Why isn’t education a fundamental right under every state constitution and under the U.S. Constitution? That question has some heavy historical and political weight, and the answer says something ugly about us as a nation. So….every American has the right to a weapon, up to and including assault weapons, but not the right to become an educated citizen?

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