David G. Hinojosa *
School finance litigation, whether equality-based or adequacy-based, has helped steer state legislators and policymakers toward fairer, more appropriate school finance laws for over five decades and counting. Yet, a common criticism of these cases lingers: simply asking for more dollars for schools will not create the systemic changes needed to help students achieve in the classroom. Those criticisms often fail to acknowledge the research evidencing gains in student performance, including a longitudinal study showing long-term impacts on the most challenging student groups. While those gains are important markers for the school finance movement, the results are limited.
* National Director of Policy for the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA). The author previously litigated education civil rights cases at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). The opinions expressed here are solely of the author in his individual capacity and do not reflect the opinions of IDRA or MALDEF. The author thanks the many attorneys and advocates continuing to push for equity and adequacy in public education for all students through the courts, in the state and national capitals, and in the schools. The author also gives thanks to the University of Richmond Law Review forgoing outside the box by engaging the community on education and civil rights in its symposium.
Molly A. Hunter *
Kathleen J. Gebhardt **
Since the 1600s in New England and at least the late 1700s more broadly, colonies, states, and the U.S. Congress have recognized the importance of educational opportunity to prepare children for the responsibilities of citizenship and the challenges of changing times. While a Massachusetts court decided the first litigation for fair school funding in 1819, the modern era of these cases began with decisions in California, New Jersey, and the U.S. Supreme Court in the early 1970s. An attempt to rely on federal equal protection for funding equity in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez led to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that education is not a fundamental right under the federal Constitution.
* Director, Education Justice, The National Program at the Education Law Center.
** Executive Director, Children‘s Voices in Colorado; Plaintiffs‘ Lead Counsel in Lobato v. State of Colorado and Dwyer v. State of Colorado.
The authors thank Courtney B. Warren, Associate at Bryan Cave LLP, for research essential to this article.
Gerard Robinson *
Education in the United States is governed by principles of federalism that guide the constitutional relationships between our national government’s three branches and state governments. American federalism was an ideological break from the old ideas of sovereignty under the English governance model that took root in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, which occurred from May 25 to September 17, 1787. On July 13, 1787, while delegates met in Philadelphia to strengthen the Articles of Confederation (later agreeing to abandon it for a Constitution), members of the Congress of the Confederation convened in New York City and enacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. It, along with a then prevailing ideology of encouragement, shaped the early foundation of the federal government’s role in state education.
* Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and former Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Ed.M., Harvard University; B.A., Howard University; A.A. El Camino College. Many thanks for the thoughtful comments of the editors of the University of Richmond Law Review and Professor Kimberly Jenkins Robinson.
Kerrigan O’Malley *
Some judicial opinions are so iconic in their sentiment and pervasive in their reach as to become imprinted on the nation’s collective conscience. Such is the case with these words from Chief Justice Warren in the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, holding that racially segregated educational facilities violate an individual‘s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment‘s Equal Protection Clause. In the broader context, these words represent an enduring aspiration that continues to inform policy and signals the need for course correction when legal or judicial discourse strays from equality principles.
Marilyn Armour *
Schools are beset with complex challenges in their efforts to educate students. The tough policies created to ensure safe learn-ing environments appear to be increasingly ineffective, generating racial disproportionality in discipline, academic failure, high dropout rates, and a clear school-to-prison pipeline. The drive to meet the standards on state or national tests have generated pressure-cooker classrooms with little time for students who need more attention or for addressing students‘ emotional or social needs. A growing number of sources suggest that some of these conditions are exacerbated by a lack of teacher preparation in student management, lack of training in culturally competent practices, and gaps in familiarity between students and teachers that reinforce okay-racial stereotypes. Much of this fallout predictably and disproportionately affects economically disadvantaged African American and Hispanic students.
* Director, Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue. Ph.D., School of Social Work, The University of Texas at Austin.
Meredith Johnson Harbach *
If you follow social media, you may have noticed the rash of reporting on battles over public school dress codes and their effects on and implications for girls. Complaints have been registered across the country, including here in Virginia. For example, in September 2014 at the Maggie Walker Governor’s School, administrators announced over the PA system that school officials would be performing a shorts-length spot check. Any girls found to be in violation of the rule would be forced to change; if ten girls broke the rule, all girls would be banned from wearing shorts for a day.
* Associate Professor, University of Richmond School of Law. Thanks to Kimberly Jenkins Robinson for helpful comments during the drafting of this paper, and to John O‘Malley for research assistance. I also thank John Hogan and the editorial staff of the Richmond Law Review for their excellent work on this piece during the editing process.