(Constitutional Law side note: When analyzing an equal protection or an individual rights claim, a court uses the strictest form of scrutiny if a law affects a suspect class or violates an individual’s fundamental right. Otherwise, the court will uphold the law as long as it has a rational relation to a government objective (with some exceptions)).
This ruling influenced other cases since Rodriguez that tried to prove education systems unconstitutional. For example, students in Lujan v. Colorado State Board of Education argued the Colorado education system was unconstitutional for the same reasons as Rodriguez, but the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the system, citing Rodriguez in part.
It is difficult to believe economic status does not disadvantage students, when a large portion of the education finance structure rests on property taxes, and schools in less affluent neighborhoods consistently perform at lower rates than students in more affluent neighborhoods. In addition, if education is not a fundamental right, what is it? In Brown v. Board, the court emphasized that no student could be successful without a quality education. So if a student needs an education to survive, wouldn’t this be considered…fundamental? Essential? Crucial?
Maybe the true hesitancy behind classifying education as a fundamental right is that education is necessarily connected to many laws and regulations. Therefore, classifying it as a fundamental right would require every law and decision related to pass the strict scrutiny test.
Thankfully, advocates are continuing to press state governments on the constitutionality of their education systems. In Lobato v. Colorado State Board of Education, the plaintiffs argued the education system does not meet the requirements in the Colorado Constitution. The Supreme Court of Colorado ruled the system was constitutional, but Colorado advocates did not give up. Instead, most recently in Dwyer v. State of Colorado, plaintiffs challenged part of Colorado’s finance system, which they argue violates an amendment that calls for annual increase in per pupil spending. The Supreme Court heard this case in June and should be issuing a decision soon.
Posted by Haley DiRenzo