Although the U.S. Constitution does not specifically mention education as a right, several lawsuits recently have attempted to make it so (“Is the Time Right to Make Education a Constitutional Right?” Education Week, Dec. 11). Based on court rulings in the past, I doubt it will ever gain that status.
The closest was in 1976 in Peter W. v. San Francisco Unified Court District. The Court of Appeal, First District, California ruled that school districts cannot be held responsible for graduating students without fundamental skills. In short, there is no basis for an educational malpractice claim.
In 1973 in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the equal protection clause did not extend to school district finance inequities. The rest of the claims were dismissed.
In 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in Martinez v. Malloy ruled that the state’s policy of limiting charter schools and magnet schools violated students’ due process and equal protection rights did not deny students protection. It held only that the state had failed to fulfill its duty of public administration.
In 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Gary B. v. Snyder dismissed the lawsuit claiming that the U.S. Constitution contains an implied right of access to literacy instruction.
The latest lawsuit to make education a right is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island in A.C. v. Raimondo. It argues that there is an implied right for an education to prepare students to be capable citizens.
I doubt that plaintiffs will prevail in light of the past record. Perhaps there will be a victory on some narrow ground but not enough to make education a broad right. I hope I’m wrong, but I keep coming back to the Peter W. case as evidence.
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