Illinois considers making education a ‘fundamental right’


The need for a good public education system may seem obvious, but officially making it a “fundamental right” would take an amendment to the constitution in Illinois—and that change would have consequences.

Illinois could change its state constitution to declare education a “fundamental right” instead of a “primary responsibility,” which means that it would be the duty of the state to provide adequate funding for schools rather than simply a goal…

Chicago Ridge School District received $9,794 in per-pupil spending in 2013 compared to Rondout School, located in the Chicago’s affluent suburbs, which received $28,639 in per-pupil spending during the same year. These glaring differences can be attributed to the reliance on property taxes for school funding, NPR reported, since Roundout School’s neighborhood has many thriving businesses that contribute to local taxes, which in turn allow for higher quality schools.
If education becomes a fundamental right, the state could step in to reallocate funds and try and close such gaps. But exactly how that would work … is something of a mystery. New York has battled with trying to deal with funding inequality since the courts ruled their system was unconstitutional in 2003, but so far the state hasn’t really put in place a workable, consistent solution. From Texas to Connecticut, impoverished districts are suing to try and get decent education for their students.
Across the nation, the inequality generated by funding mechanisms such as property tax mean that a good education is all too often a matter of being born in the right location, and the differences in educational opportunities serve to affect housing values in ways that often generate a downward spiral.

Making education a fundamental right in Illinois won’t be simple, especially considering the divided nature of politics in the state.

This amendment to the state constitution would require the state to fund 51 percent of the cost of education. If the amendment passes the state legislature, it would then need 60 percent of voters to vote in favor of the amendment in November. Illinois
The proposal was put forward by House Speaker Mike Madigan, but the Democratic speaker is often used as the focus of Republican attack ads, and the proposal could be hurt by association. A similar amendment was proposed in 1992, but failed to make it out of the legislature.

It would be nice to see at least one state address this problem in a serious way.

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