Know Your (Educational) Rights

At the Campaign for Educational Equity, we have been working hard over the past couple of years to help New Yorkers understand and safeguard students’ educational rights. Yes, our students have educational rights! These rights are granted not by the U.S. constitution but from the constitution of the State of New York. And they don’t disappear during hard economic times.

This is important. The state constitution says our students have rights that must be honored, regardless of the color of our skin, the size or value of our family’s bank account or home, where we happen to live, or whether we happen to be attending school during flush financial times or lean ones.

What educational rights are guaranteed to all New York students by the state constitution?

In December 2012, the Campaign published a report that, for the first time, analyzes all of the relevant judicial, legislative, and regulatory requirements and sets out in detail what resources, services, and supports every school must be able to provide for all of its students. State-required resources include such basics as enough qualified teachers to provide a complete curriculum, including art, music, and gym, and advanced and AP classes; class sizes that are appropriate to the needs of the students; and suitable facilities, including libraries and laboratories that all students can use.

We also released a major research study in which we investigated the availability of these constitutional resources in 33 high-needs schools throughout New York State. Following dozens of on-site school visits and interviews with administrators, teachers, and student-support staff, we found evidence of serious resource deficiencies that represented extensive violations of students’ rights. In the months since those reports debuted, funding inequities have not changed significantly, and schools are still unable to provide students with the basic educational resources to which they are entitled.

Starting today, and over the coming weeks, we are publishing some of our study’s findings in the form of user-friendly, two-to-four-page research briefs (in English and Spanish). We hope these short handouts will provide useful information to New Yorkers who don’t have the time to read through our lengthy reports.

When you see our initial summary brief (available now!) and the issue-specific briefs that will follow, you may get angry about the educational injustices they point out, you may be disappointed in New York State’s perennial failure to honor children’s educational rights, but we hope you will not stop there.

Please use and share these briefs to raise awareness among your friends and family members, at your school, at community meetings, in your blog writing and social-media posts. Make sure other New Yorkers know their educational rights, so that we can work together to secure the resources to ensure all New York children the educational opportunities they deserve and on which all of our futures depend.

Some upcoming issue briefs:

School Facilities
Class Size
Resources for English Language Learners

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