- Accuracy in Media - https://www.aim.org -

Court Case Tests Limits of Constitution, Whether Education is a Constitutional Right

NBC News published a lengthy article on the plight of poorly-run school districts, primarily in Detroit, Michigan. The article, headlined [1], “How a lawsuit over Detroit schools could have an ‘earth-shattering’ impact,” outlined how a court case could pave the way for education to become a constitutional right.

The article quoted a former Detroit high school student, who has since graduated and struggled in his community college courses in Florida. He told NBC News that his four years at Detroit’s Osborn High School were “a big waste of time” since he was unprepared for college after graduation.

Other teachers, who worked at public schools or charter schools, agreed with the former student and noted how the schools were underfunded, there was a significant lack of classroom materials and the terrible condition of school facilities.

The court case, renamed Gary B. et al v. Whitmer after Whitmer became Michigan’s governor and succeeded Rick Snyder in the office, had already been thrown out by a lower district judge on the grounds that the Detroit schools’ conditions were not unconstitutional, though the allegations were disturbing and disheartening. The case is currently before a federal circuit court and the plaintiffs hope it can make its way to the Supreme Court.

However, buried in the article was the admission that “There is no mention of the word “education” in the Constitution, and the Supreme Court has held in the past that there is no constitutional right to education or to equally funded schools.” This line should have been closer to the top of the article, as it is important to note that the U.S. Constitution does outline specific rights for U.S. citizens and that education is not listed.

It also is important to take note of different legal schools of opinion, such as strict interpretation of the Constitution or a more liberal interpretation of it. This court case appears to be banking on the latter, but the article did not mention the legal basis behind these two theories of interpreting the U.S. Constitution.

Additionally, the court case may not make it to the Supreme Court because the state of Michigan has reorganized the Detroit school district to avoid future problems outlined in the court case. The Detroit Public Schools district was replaced by a new “Detroit Public Schools Community District,” spending millions of dollars in the process, and gave back control of the district’s school board to voters.

NBC News should have started with the more up-to-date information, such as the case may not be heard due to Michigan’s reforms of Detroit schools and that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to education, to better inform its audience. Instead, the reader was roped into a lengthy article, which article later admitted that this could all be for naught.