Last month, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) appeared in Iowa to promote a constitutional amendment that would give all U.S. citizens the right to a quality public education. At the event, Rep. Jackson declared that it should be unconstitutional for school quality to be affected by the level of local prosperity.
The need for a constitutional amendment making education a fundamental right arises from the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, in which the Supreme Court determined that education “is not among the rights afforded explicit protection under our federal constitution.” In not recognizing a federal education right, the Supreme Court refused to move beyond its decision in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, in which a unanimous Court recognized education as “perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.”
Rep. Jackson’s constitutional amendment would directly invalidate the Court’s argument in the Rodriguez case by adding this phrase: “All citizens of the United States shall enjoy the right to a public education of equal high quality.”
|Education Finance Database Provides State-by-State Comparison
A free Web resource produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) allows users to learn about the differences and similarities between states’ education finance systems. The site features an interactive map that displays per pupil spending for each state and illustrates the equity disparity that Rep. Jackson’s constitutional amendment addresses. For example, while New York spends more than $7,500 per pupil on education, Utah spends a little more than $4,000 per pupil.
The database seeks to explain the different revenue sources and dissemination systems that states use to fund education in their part of the country. NCSL developed the site as a way to provide easy-to-read funding information for school leaders, national and state policy makers, and other education stakeholders.
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who has long been a champion of inter-district equalization of educational opportunities, is set to announce his own initiative. On Thursday, May 23, Rep. Fattah will testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on the growing disparity in educational opportunity between the best and worst schools. He plans to introduce new legislation in the form of a Student Bill of Rights.
While his earlier efforts have focused on funding disparities across school districts, Rep. Fattah’s Student Bill of Rights focuses on seven factors that are essential for a quality education: 1) Instruction from a highly qualified teacher; 2) rigorous academic standards; 3) small class sizes; 4) up-to-date textbooks; 5) state-of-the-art libraries; 6) updated computers; and 7) qualified guidance counselors.