June 6th, 2006 03:07 EST
The Right to a High Quality Public Education in America
Do children in this country possess an American right to an education?
It is a simple question, yet the answer often startles youth and adults alike: no. There is no national right to an education "let alone the right to a high quality education.
So if you are an individual child born somewhere in America, what kind of school will you have access to? The answer depends almost entirely on where you are born. Each of the 50 states "and, therefore, each of the 14,000 school districts within the states "has different language describing the government`s responsibility to provide some system of free and public schools. Connecticut`s state constitution, for example, declares that there shall always be free public elementary and secondary schools in the state, " nothing more, nothing less. A dirty building with a few chairs, blackboards, and adults showing old filmstrips would be enough for children under this language, and the language of many other state constitutions. Perhaps it should be no surprise that our high school freshman finished 24th out of 29 countries in math and problem solving, and more than two thirds of American youth read below grade level proficiency.
So the bad news is that the quality of educational opportunity a child has access to today is determined by where she is born and by how much money her parents have. The good news is that it doesn`t have to be this way. The United States Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times, often when a value critical to the American way of life needs to be protected. For example, the first amendment was passed to guarantee all Americans freedom of speech and religion; the 13th amendment abolished slavery; the 19th amendment finally gave women the right to vote; and the right of 18-year-olds to vote was secured in the 26th amendment. Education is the foundation of our democracy and our prosperity " but to this day it does not appear a single time in the US Constitution. Is it time for this to change? Ask yourself these simple questions to see what you think:
1. Should American youth be guaranteed the right to an education?
2. If so, what kind of education should they be guaranteed "any old kind of education or an education of high quality?
3. And should this right to quality education be different depending on what state you are born in, or should it be the same high standard everywhere in America?
A national movement of high school and college aged students is emerging with an answer to these questions in the form of a national student petition for a constitutional amendment to guarantee all American children the right to a high quality education. The goal is to get more than one million 13-24 year-olds to sign it " will you add your voice to the movement? Visit www.OurEd.org to learn more.