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Detroit Editorial Explains Why Courts Are Last Resort for Children Seeking Opportunity

August 22, 2017

One would think that in a democracy the legislators elected by voters would do everything possible to ensure that every child would have a fair and equitable opportunity to receive a high quality education underwritten by public funding… but as explained by executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, Kary Moss, in her Detroit News op ed piece that is not the case in Michigan nor is it the law of the land. Ms. Moss writes:

In 1972 the Supreme Court, in a famous case called Rodriguez v. Texas, interpreted the 14th Amendment to the Constitution as not guaranteeing children a right to an education no matter where they are born. Now is the time to re-examine that interpretation of the Constitution.

Our failure as a society to embrace this most basic value – of education as a basic right – is in stark contradiction to the ambitious dreams for this country that are expressed in our Constitution – the principles of individual freedom, protection against arbitrary government action, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and press, due process of law, equal protection and privacy.

The Constitution expresses our nation’s values and it has rested with us – the people – to give those values meaning by putting cases in front of the courts that have allowed the Constitution to adapt to modern conditions.

With the US Supreme Court filled with pro-business conservatives, it is not clear that now is the best time to re-visit the Rodriguez v. Texas decision, but it IS clear that given Michigan’s dismal and inequitable funding for public education they offer one of the best places to test the waters on the question of a requirement for government provide a sound educational program as a basic right. And, as Ms. Moss illustrates those who seek an equitable educational opportunity for all students have nowhere to turn except the courts:

Today, those who care deeply about public education have very few options in face of the kind of inequalities that exist in our public schools. State legislatures refuse to fix broken funding systems or address the persistence of segregation in our schools because of strong partisanship, shrinking budgets, and vastly different philosophies about our duty to all our children. This leaves ordinary people with few options.

It is a sad commentary on our country’s priorities that last evening the President went on national television to announce yet another surge to bring an end to a misbegotten 16-year conflict in Afghanistan, one of several Middle Eastern nations where we have spent billions over the past several years on armaments while short changing children inner own country.  If those funds had been directed to underfunded schools, tour crumbling infrastructure, or to the health and well-being of children we would not have a generation struggling with opiod addiction and joblessness. MAYBE one outcome of the current rudderless leadership in our nation and statehouses will be an openness to hearing the messages of those like Ms. Moss who seek fairness and equity in opportunity.

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  1. August 22, 2017 at 2:55 pm
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