Court case asks whether education is a fundamental constitutional right

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

Education is important for the future success of America’s society and for decades, children have languished in neglected school systems across the country. Teachers’ unions continue to have outsized power, which has contributed to the stagnant education environment. Also, similar stagnation hamstrings higher education and college students question whether their college degree is worth the money or student loan debt.

Amid the uncertainty in America’s education system is the question of whether education should be considered a constitutional right. An upcoming court case aimed to test the legal boundaries of the Constitution, Gary B. et al v. Whitmer, which pitted the Detroit Public School system and Michigan governor’s office against Detroit parents who are the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs hoped that the case could pave the way for education to become a constitutional right protected by the Constitution, especially for poorer, urban school districts. As is common knowledge, public school districts in inner cities tend to be underfunded, poorly staffed, and under-equipped to deal with the social struggles of their community. The case, supported by former students and teachers, pointed out these problems and noted that they endangered a student’s right to a quality education.

The case has already been thrown out by a lower district judge on the grounds that the Detroit schools’ conditions were not unconstitutional, although the court found the allegations were distressing. The plaintiffs hope that they can appeal the case to the Supreme Court, which is not a sure bet. The case would have little legal standing to make it to the Supreme Court because the state of Michigan already reorganized the Detroit school district, replacing the previous “Detroit Public Schools” with “Detroit Public Schools Community District.”

Taking a step back from the case, it is important to point out that there is no mention of the word “education” in the Constitution. Also, the Supreme Court in previous cases said that there is no constitutional right to education or equally funded schools. Adding to that, the Supreme Court tends to resist overturning legal precedent.

Additionally, the plaintiffs appear to be hoping for a looser, liberal interpretation of the Constitution. There are differing schools of thought in law on whether to liberally interpret the Constitution in today’s terms, or to strictly interpret the Constitution as it is written. At least four of the current justices of the court are most likely in the latter camp, such as Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh.

In a day and age in which activists clamor to make their top priority a human right, whether it be education or gender reassignment surgery requirements in health insurance policies, the Constitution remains unchanged. For activists to wish their core issue becomes an enshrined constitutional right is solely a wish, until the courts rule in their favor, or legislation or a constitutional amendment is passed.