Litigation on Education Rights in the U.S. Equality arguments in Federal Courts Equality Argument in State Courts Adequate Funding Arguments in State Courts
State Constitutional Provisions New Yorks constitution: New York The legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated. Ohios constitution requires the State to provide a through and efficient system of common schools throughout the state.
Standards-based Education Policy 1989: The President convened governors of all 50 states and CEOs to help identify what to do about the fact that U.S. students were lagging behind students in some other countries (Japan). The group issues a report called Nation-at-Risk that identified indicators/standards that would be used to measure success/failure of a school. As a result of this movement, nearly all states by the 1990s created their own standards (such as high school completion rate) and their own benchmarks (such as 90%) and then identified that was needed to reach those standards, including the proper training of teachers capable of providing instruction aligned with those standards; and to provide the curricula or curricular guidelines, as well as the books, facilities, and other resources, necessary for proper instruction in accordance with the standards.
Overview of Litigation Strategy & State Court Decisions Advocates argued that schools systems in the State failed to provide adequate or sound education to students as required by the State constitutions. They wanted the State to provide more funding to schools so that students could receive an adequate or sound education. States had developed indicators/standards to measure school performance (such as test scores, drop-out rate, teacher performance). States had also set benchmarks for those indicators (e.g., students should receive at least a 80 score on a test). Courts found that the schools in the States did not satisfy the standards set by the State (e.g., the majority of students scoring below 80). Thus, courts found a violation of Constitutions education provision Remedies: State must propose a plan that would provide adequate funding to schools so that students receive an adequate education.
First State Courts Case Using Adequacy Claim Kentucky Supreme Court (1989) in Rose v. Council for Better Education, the court found that Kentuckys entire school system was inadequate and unconstitutional and directed the legislature to re-created, and re-establish a system of common schools. »Sufficient oral and written communication skills to enable students to function in a complex and rapidly changing civilization. »Sufficient knowledge of economic, social, and political systems to enable students to make informed choices. »Sufficient understanding of government processes to enable the student to understand the issues that affect his or her community, state, and nation. »Sufficient self-knowledge and knowledge of his or her mental and physical wellness. »Sufficient grounding in the arts to enable each student to appreciate his or her cultural and historical heritage. »Sufficient training or preparation for advanced training to enable each student to choose and pursue life work intelligently. »Sufficient training in either academic or vocational skills to enable public school students to compete with their counterparts in other states.
New York Court Adequacy Case »In 1993, a coalition of organizations formed campaign for Fiscal equity to mount a legal challenge to NYSs system for funding public education. »The high court considered the indicators (such as drop out rate and teacher performance) and determined that the NYC public school system did not provide a sound basic education as required by the State Constitution. »The court dismissed NYCs argument that the low test results and graduation rates related to immigrant children and lack of the culture of education in minority communities. »In 1995, the court ordered to state government to 1) determine the costs of providing a sound basic education, 2) devise a funding plan that would ensure a sound basic education and 3) adopt a system of accountability to ensure these reforms are implemented. »The governor of NY said that $5 billion dollars was needed to improve the NYC public school system so that the schools could satisfy the quantitative indicators proposed by the State.
Lessons Learned from U.S. Experience »Boot-strapping: Give education rights more teeth by tying them to other constitutional rights such as right to vote, free speech, and right to defend oneself in a criminal trial. »Indicators-based arguments: -In defining the content of the constitutional right to education, use quantitative indicators (such as literacy rate and test scores). -Compare these indicators against benchmarks set for them by the state (such as 80% or 90 for test scores). -Argue for constitutional violations where those benchmarks are not satisfied. »Democratic Engagement: To combat arguments that when courts adjudicate these issues, they impede on the legislative functions, employ a coalition-building democratic process.