Joshua E. Weishart, professor of law and policy, West Virginia University. His scholarship focuses on constitutional rights to education.
Originally published in The Los Angeles Times.
Teacher strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma manifested growing frustration with state disinvestment in public education over the past decade. But these protests and walkouts are not just a story about state budgets. Teachers are being forced to rise up in part because most state courts are shrinking from their duty to enforce the state constitutional right to education.
All 50 state constitutions entitle children to a quality education. (The U.S. Supreme Court declined to recognize a comparable federal right under the U.S. Constitution.) For decades, many state courts enforced that right, striking down school funding schemes as inequitable and inadequate. State legislatures and governors mostly dragged their feet in response, achieving partial compliance with court orders at best. Still, court interventions led to increased funding that studies showed improved educational achievement.