In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution does not guarantee Americans "equal" education (which would require similar per-student funding in both rich and poor neighborhoods), merely "adequate" education.
Even that adequacy standard has weakened over the years, as right-wing governments have systematically gutted education budgets, and in 20 states, the state supreme court will not hear challenges to education cuts that argue that these cuts undermine an "adequate" education.
Now, a suit in Rhode Island is asking the state court to rule that underfunded education is unconstitutional because it denies pupils the opportunity to be sufficiently well-educated to be citizens in a democracy, something the framers of the Constitution were very explicit about.
The case just filed in Rhode Island seeks to avoid that trap by doing something completely new. It focuses on the civics knowledge and skills that our democratic form of government demands of citizens – a topic with deep historical roots. My recent research demonstrated that our founders intended public education to be a core aspect of the "republican form of government" that our federal Constitution demands.
Our republican form of government began as an experiment in the idea that everyday citizens could govern themselves. But our founders – people like George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – emphasized that public education was necessary for those governments to work. In legislation that would dictate how the western territory would be divided up and later become states, Congress in the Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787 mandated that each township reserve a central lot for public schools and that the states use their public resources to "forever encourage" those schools.
Fight for federal right to education takes a new turn
[Derek W. Black/The Conversation]
(via Naked Capitalism)