A Constitutional Right To Education?

Stephen Lurie makes the case for one, noting that “every country that bests us in the education rankings either has a constitutional guarantee to education or [has] ensured the right through an independent statute”:

There simply hasn’t been a movement in the US to establish the rights of children in respect to equal, free, and adequate education. … When it comes to the rights of children in education, traditional interpretation has deemed the 10th amendment sufficient to shift responsibility to the states, and the 14th amendment adequate to ensure fairness. The Supreme Court decision in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973), though, ran directly counter to that logic, denying appellant claims that unequal education funding violated a fundamental right and the Equal Protection Clause. Even as America assumes the responsibility for education rests somewhere, it’s clear that the right to that education has clearly fallen through the cracks.

But even if it were possible to pass a constitutional amendment, what would that accomplish?

Besides the important ability to catalyze a national discourse on education and legitimize federal leadership, a constitutional amendment provides a vital opportunity for court challenge. As influential as the decision in Brown v. Board proved to be for de jure discrimination, relying on the 14th Amendment for equal protection has proven inadequate to ensuring de facto educational equality across race, state, and income.

When there is a constitutional guarantee to education, the report and history suggest, direct litigation can produce lasting results. If a true right is established, soft forces and hard law can begin to fundamentally alter the immense flaws of the education system nationwide. This is the exact phenomenon that plays out time and again in other countries – and particularly the ones besting American education.