Oct 22

Public Education in the United States

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I listened with interest to a interview of the famous author and philanthropist, Mitch Albom, by Scott Simon on National Public Radio today. Mr. Albom was concerned that education has been all but ignored in the current election cycle. He expressed that we all should be invested in ensuring basic literacy in the United States, even suggesting that individual literacy instruction should be given when necessary. In an op-ed in the New York Times, the eminent Prof. Geoffrey R. Stone suggested that states should …”be constitutionally required to provide (children) with at least an education that gives them the chance to learn the most basic skills to succeed.” “Are Terrible Schools Unconstitutional?” N.Y.T. Oct. 21, 2016. While I don’t disagree with either gentleman, at least Prof. Stone knows full well that the Supreme Court refused to hold that education was a “fundamental” or implied right under the United States Constitution.

Public education in the United States has, in theory, been a matter of state and local control. For that reason, some people might think that public education is not, in fact, a sound topic for debate in the federal election. Yet public education today is a hybrid between local and national control. National control of public education has been nominally accomplished by federal legislation providing money to the states for education that, in turn, filters through to local public school districts. Whether the United States would benefit from a uniform public educational system is a matter of debate. Clearly, there are flaws in a system that relies exclusively on local control; that system fails to guarantee a uniform preparation into society and the economic workforce. In other words, problems exist under either system and I don’t have the answer, but it is important to be aware that your child’s right to an education derives, at least for now, from your state’s constitution.

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