Magazine article Momentum

Real Choice Is the Only Answer to Quality Education for All Children

Magazine article Momentum

Real Choice Is the Only Answer to Quality Education for All Children

Article excerpt

As Momentum focuses this month's issue on education in the law, I am reminded of judicial decisions and federal and state legislative initiatives concerning critical legal issues in education. At the core of each of these cases and legislative reforms is the basic concern about how our nation can best provide quality, accessible and affordable education to all of its children. A common variable in each matter I consider is the appropriate role of school choice in making quality education a real option for all families and their children.

In December 2006, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on behalf of the plaintiffs in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1, 426 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir.). This case is one of two companion cases that will require the court to consider whether a public school district policy to achieve racial and ethnic balance through the use of race in the assignment of students to district high schools is a compelling state interest and thus not a violation of the constitutional right of students to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

This question is a particularly interesting one where the school district policy to use race in school assignment to achieve the educational and social benefits of racial diversity in all of the district schools preempts student choices to attend particular schools. The arguments supporting the need for racial balance over student choice includes the need to avoid detrimental effects of racial isolation in a particular school and to ensure equal access among all students to various academic programs within the school district, two of the most basic challenges in school desegregation cases.

In 2002, Congress passed its most comprehensive and ambitious public educational reform to date with the No Child Left Behind Act (P.L. 107-110). While the overall purpose of the act is to "ensure that all children have a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education," its implementation has been the subject of controversy. The act was designed to achieve a national goal of providing "high quality" K-12 public school education through standards requirements; regular assessment of student achievement in educational basics including math, reading, writing, and science; teacher certification competency; and a school choice option for parents of students in underperforming schools.

A final issue that has been at the center of much attention is the constitutionality of state and local school voucher programs permitting parental choice between public and private school education. …

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