Fight for federal right to education takes a new turn

December 10, 2018

A new fight to secure a federal constitutional right to education is spreading across the country. This fight has been a long time coming and is now suddenly at full steam. The case just filed in Rhode Island focuses on the civics knowledge and skills that our democratic form of government demands of citizens—a topic with deep historical roots.

A new fight to secure a federal constitutional right to education is spreading across the country. This fight has been a long time coming and is now suddenly at full steam.

In 1973, plaintiffs in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez argued that school funding inequities violated the right to education. The Supreme Court rejected education as a fundamental right under the federal Constitution, leaving funding inequalities in Texas and elsewhere completely untouched. For more than 40 years, no one even dared to directly challenge Rodriguez’s conclusion in court. Now, in just two years, four different legal teams and plaintiff groups have done just that. But this time, they are shifting their arguments away from just claims about money. They are focusing on educational quality, literacy and learning outcomes.

The boldest claim was filed on Nov. 29 in Rhode Island, arguing for an education that prepares students for citizenship – an argument that draws directly on my own legal research and expertise as a scholar of education law.