A High-Quality Education Means What, Exactly?

This November California voters may assign our state courts some unwelcome homework: Politico’s California Playbook notes that several different education-right initiatives are circulating. All would add to our state constitution a right to “high-quality” public schools or education. That’s arguably useful because California’s constitutional right to education has never been defined to set a particular quality standard. But failing to define that standard for the courts will set them (and the policy) up for failure.

California’s constitution devotes all of Article IX to education, and the California Supreme Court has held since Serrano v. Priest I (1971) 5 Cal. 3d 584, and II, (1976) 18 Cal. 3d 728, that those provisions guarantee a right to education. That right is generally seen as consisting of two components: equal protection (everyone gets the same education) and quality (everyone gets a decent education).

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