Massachusetts Court: School Choice Is Not a “Civil Right”
Judge Heidi Brieger
On October 06, 2016, Massachusetts education blogger, Jennifer Berkshire, posted that the Massachusetts Superior Court had tossed a lawsuit arguing that raising the charter school cap was an issue of student civil rights.
The argument that school choice is a “civil right” is not exclusive to Massachusetts. However, the ruling that student civil rights are not violated if the student applies for charter school admission and is not accepted due to applications outnumbering available seats– even if the school that the student currently attends has a low rating on the state rating system for public schools– is worth noting even for those residing in other states.
On October 04, 2016, Massachusetts Superior Court Associate Justice Heidi Brieger signed this motion to dismiss the lawsuit arguing that charter school attendance is a civil right.
A number of points in Brieger’s decision are worth noting.
First of all, Brieger dismisses the idea of a low-scoring school as “failing” its students. She turns this idea on its head, noting that the purpose in grading schools is to help those with low scores, and that an education department designation does not equal the state’s abandoning the school:
Plaintiffs allege that each attends a school that has been designated as a Level 3 or Level 4 school by the Commonwealth. Further, these schools fail to teach a significant number of its students to be “proficient or higher” in the MCAS examination subjects. Thus, Plaintiffs claim each has been deprived of a constitutionally “adequate” education. Accepting Plaintiff’s allegations as true, however, does not mean that the court must find that because a school has been designated as a Level 3 or 4 school, and the students have low MCAS examination scores, that there has been a kind of “Statewide abandonment” demonstrating a constitutional violation. To the contrary, the Department classifies schools by level so it can identify the schools most in need of assistance and then provide such schools with the ways and means to improve the school. … The Attorney General argues that a Level 4 designation is not an admission that the school or school district has abandoned its constitutional duty to provide an education to its students. The court agrees. The five-level regulatory framework is a policy-driven measurement tool designed to single out schools for extra scrutiny and improvement so as to ensure the Commonwealth is in fact fulfilling its constitutional mandate to provide “a public education system of sufficient quality” (pages 17-18). …
The idea of grading schools in order to condemn schools is an idea born of and Massachusetts Court: School Choice Is Not a “Civil Right” | deutsch29: