Wendy Lecker, senior attorney for the Education Law Center, writes here that our most important national standards are found in our obligation to provide a high-quality education, adequately funded, to all children.
She was reminded of this by the recent court decision in Texas, where Judge John Dietz ruled that the schools were inadequately funded.
“Dietz found that to prepare children for citizenship, every school must have a basic set of essential resources: pre-K, small class size, enough teachers, libraries, books, technology, support staff — including counselors, social workers and paraprofessionals — and extra services for children with extraordinary needs, adequate facilities and a suitable curriculum. After a lengthy trial, the judge ruled that Texas’ school-finance system failed to ensure schools had these basic resources and that, as a result, children in these schools were being denied their constitutional right to an education.”
“Across this nation, courts in school funding cases have found that these same resources are essential to a constitutionally adequate education in their states. Like Dietz, they heard evidence from national educational experts and local educational experts — superintendents and teachers who work with public school children every day. These judges heard what children need and what works best to help children learn. From Kansas, to Washington, to New Jersey and beyond, these far-flung courts ruled that their states are responsible for providing schools with this nearly identical basket of educational goods.
“So-called education “reformers” push a different and lesser vision of education — perhaps most honestly expressed by the Dayton, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce:
[whose spokesman said] “The business community is the consumer of the educational product. Students are the educational product. They are going through the educational system so they can be an attractive product for business to consume.”
“This diminishment of children as being in service to business is echoed by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who lamented that because of our public education system, “we are falling further behind our international competitors.”
“Not only is this vision offensive, it is wrongheaded. It has been proven over and over that U.S. students’ scores on national or international tests bear no relation to America’s economy or worker productivity.”
Our national standard ought to be, and until recently was: equality of educational opportunity. That standard cannot be met until all children have access to a good public school with experienced teachers and adequate resources. We must hold state governments accountable for supplying the schools that children need.