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The Right to Education


									The Right to
The Right to Equal Education in the U.S.
      What is the Right to Education?

The right to education guarantees every child equal access
    to quality schools and services without discrimination
   at every level of education, including quality teachers
        and curricula, and safe and welcoming school
          environments that respect human dignity.

The human right to education includes:
• Equal enjoyment of, and equal access to, educational
  opportunities and facilities
• Compulsory and free primary education
• Generally available and accessible secondary
  education, and equally accessible higher education
• Freedom of choice in education, and freedom to
  establish private institutions.
                     International Standards

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),
   Article 26 (1948):
   ―Everyone has the right to education, based on the
   principles of inclusion and non-discrimination.‖

International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
   (ICESCR), Article 13 (1966):
   ―Primary education should be available to all and made
   progressively free.‖

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),
   Articles 28 and 29 (1990):
   ―Secondary education, including technical and
   vocational, should be made available to all and made
   progressively free.‖ ―Parents have a right to decide on
   the education of their children.‖
                                           Education Must Be:

            Available                                    Accessible
There must be an adequate number of
                                               There must be equal access for all to
    school buildings, trained teachers
                                                 education, especially for the most
   receiving competitive salaries, and
                                              vulnerable groups in society, including
 teaching materials to meet the needs
                                                the poor, immigrants, the disabled,
    of all students. In well-resourced
                                              and racially marginalized groups. This
  countries like the U.S., there should
                                                 includes physical access to school
     also be libraries, computers and
                                              buildings, as well as economic access—
  information technology available for
                                                 transportation, materials and any
  all. Parents should have the right to
                                               other basic costs must be affordable.
  choose education for their children.

           Acceptable                          Education must adapt to the needs of
                                                students ―within their diverse social
   ―Education, including curricula and
                                                   and cultural settings,‖ such as
teaching methods, must be acceptable
                                                students from different class, racial
  (relevant, culturally appropriate and
                                                 and cultural backgrounds, students
 of good quality).‖ Schools must meet
                                              who do not speak the primary language
   standards for health and safety and
                                                   of the school system, homeless
 discipline must not violate the dignity
                                               students, students in foster care, and
              of the child.
                                                    students with disabilities.
                        Human Rights at Issue

   The following human rights are indispensable if the
          right to education is to be fully realized:
• The right to equality between men and women and to equal
  partnership in the family and society
• The right to work and receive wages that contribute to an
  adequate standard of living
• The right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and
• The right to freedom from discrimination in all areas and
  levels of education
• The right to education for children of migrant workers
• The right to education for persons with disabilities and the
  freedom from discrimination in access to education
• The right to share in the benefits of scientific progress
• The right to participate in shaping decisions and policies
  affecting one’s community, at the local, national and
  international levels
                         Government Obligations
  To ensure the right to education, the United States has the following obligations:

• RESPECT by avoiding government action that would cause
• PROTECT against other individuals or institutions.
• FULFILL by taking action to ensure quality education.
• Guarantee equity and non-discrimination
• Use the maximum amount of resources available
• Progressively implement by continuously working to
  improve education
• Monitor the enforcement of human rights
• Make information available
• Provide remedies for violations of rights
• Guarantee effective participation
       Does the U.S. Recognize the
               Right to Education?
U.S. Accountability to Non-Discrimination
• International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
   (ICCPR), ratified by the U.S. in 1992
• International Convention on the Elimination of all
   Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), ratified by the
   U.S. in 1994
U.S. Accountability to Education (The U.S. has only signed, not
   ratified, the major treaties recognizing the right to education).

• International Covenant on Economic, Social and
  Cultural Rights (ICESCR), signed by the U.S. President in
• Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), signed by
  the U.S. president in 1995—(the CRC has been ratified by every
   country in the world, except for the U.S. and Somalia).
 How is the U.S. failing to fulfill
         the right to education?
• The U.S. is failing in the following areas:
   –   Available Pre-K Education
   –   Adequate funding
   –   Competitive Salaries
   –   Access to Education
   –   Disciplinary policies that respect a child’s dignity
   –   Adaptable teaching methods
   –   Non-discrimination
   –   Protecting the most vulnerable
           Available Pre-K Education
• Head Start, a program for low-income
  children only has enough funding to serve half
  of all eligible children. (Blank, 2005)

• Due to a lack of Pre-K education, children
  from low-income families know only a ¼ as
  many words as children from other families by
  the time they enter 1st grade. (Children’s Defense
  Fund, 2005)
                      Adequate Funding
• High poverty schools are receive an average of
  $1,348 fewer tax dollars per pupil than more
  affluent districts. (Learning First Alliance, 2005)

• The money spent on schools serving students
  from low-income families is more likely to
  fund basic repairs, such as new roofs or
  asbestos removal, while schools in more
  affluent districts are more likely to receive
  funds for educational enhancements such as
  science laboratories or performing arts
  centers. (BEST, 2006)
                           Competitive Salaries
• Over the last decade, teacher salaries have remained
  nearly flat, averaging $44,367 in 2003, just about
  $2,598 above what they were in 1972 (after adjusting
  for inflation). (Southern Education Foundation, 2001)

• Southern states lag behind the nation in teacher pay.
  Ex: More than 1 in every 3 of Arkansas’ 311 school
  districts had an average teacher pay below 67% of the
  national average. (Education Trust, 2006)

• Poor Districts—with high percentages of students of
  color—usually have the lowest teacher salaries. (Learning
   First Alliance, 2005)
                         Access to Education
• By the end of high school, the average African-
  American or Latino student scores at approximately the
  same level as the average white 8th grader. (Children’s
   Defense Fund, 2005)

• Minority children are less likely to be in gifted and
  talented programs and are more likely to be in
  programs for children with mental retardation or
  emotional or behavioral disturbances. (Education Trust,

• College enrollment of students of color lags behind
  their white counterparts and blacks are much less likely
  to complete their college education. (American Council on
   Education, 2006 and Education Trust, 2003)
                   Access to Education
• Undocumented immigrant students are limited
  in their access to post-secondary education.
  For example states are prohibited from giving
  in-state tuition to undocumented residents if
  they do not offer the same benefits to out-of-
  state citizens. (Biswas, 2005)

• Federal law prohibits undocumented students
  from receiving federal loans and grants,
  including work-study jobs, nor are they
  eligible for state assistance in many states.
  (FinAid, 2006)
                            Quality Education
• The U.S. graduates only 75% of its students as
  compared to the more than 95% graduation
  rate common to other industrialized nations.
  (Darling-Hammond, 2007)

• U.S. performance in Math and Science is also
  below average. Ex: in the Trends in
  International Mathematics and Science Study
  (TIMSS), given to 4th graders in 24 countries,
  the average score of U.S. students ranks
  below that of their counterparts in 11
  countries including Japan, the Netherlands,
  and Latvia. (NCES, 2003)
                          Quality Education
• Schools with the highest percentages of minority,
  limited English proficient and low-income students are
  more likely to employ beginning teachers and fewer
  teachers with masters degrees. (Children’s Defense Fund,

• Schools whose students are 70% or more low-income are
  more than twice as likely to be overcrowded as schools
  whose students are less than 20% low-income. (Children’s
   Defense Fund, 2004)

• Teachers in these high minority low-income schools also
  report inadequate facilities, less availability of
  textbooks and supplies, fewer administrative supports,
  and larger class sizes. (National Science Board, 2006)
                 Disciplinary Policies that
                 Respect a Child’s Dignity
• Zero-tolerance policies common in U.S. schools are used
  to suspend and expel children for minor, non-violent
  offenses. (The Advancement Project and the Civil Rights Project, 2000)

• Black students are suspended and expelled higher rates
  than white students and are more frequently referred for
  subjective offenses such as ―disrespect.‖ (The Advancement
   Project and the Civil Rights Project, 2000)

• Students are also subjected to abusive or humiliating
  comments by teachers. (Sullivan, 2007)

• Students who are suspended fall behind academically
  and are rarely given alternative assignments or allowed
  to make up missed work. (The Advancement Project and the Civil
   Rights Project, 2000)
     Adaptable Teaching Methods
• Students with disabilities were shortchanged
  10.6 billion of what was promised in the first
  year of IDEA. (National Education Association, 2007 )

• The need for these funds is clear as students
  with disabilities are less likely to graduate
  from high school. (US Dept. of Education, 2005)

• 12.5% of working age people with disabilities
  have a bachelor’s degree, compared to the
  national average of 30.3%. (Rehabilitation Research
  and Training Center on Disability Demographics and Statistics,
      Adaptable Teaching Methods
• 87% of homeless youth are enrolled in school and only
  77% attend school regularly. (National Coalition for the
   Homeless, 2007)

• Less than 16% of eligible pre-school aged homeless
  children are enrolled in preschool programs. (National
   Coalition for the Homeless, 2007)

• Homeless children are also subject to frequent school
  transfers. (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2007)

• It is estimated that this disruption causes a child to lose
  3-6 months of education with each move. (National Coalition
   for the Homeless, 2007)
     Adaptable Teaching Methods
• ¼ of all LEP students ages 16-24 who enroll in U.S.
  schools drop out. (de Velasco, 2001)

• Linguistically isolated, ½ of LEP students attend schools
  where more than 1/3 of the students are LEP. (de
   Velasco, 2001)

• Schools with a large percentage of LEP students have a
  harder time filling vacancies and rely more on
  uncertified and substitute teachers. (Cosentino de Cohen
   and Clewel, 2007)

• Only 30% of teachers working with LEP students
  reported any special training. (de Velasco, 2001)
      Why Educations as a Human
• Emphasize the severity of the educational crisis in the
  U.S. by naming it as a human rights crisis

• Provide a positive, alternate framework for education
  policy legitimated by worldwide recognition

• Provide a unifying message based on the universality of
  rights and the right of communities to participate in
  decisions that effect their lives

• Offer practical advocacy tools for raising awareness,
  analyzing policy, documenting violations and organizing
      Why Educations as a Human
The human rights standards for education can be useful
  for reframing how we view and practice educational
                   policy in the U.S.:

   – Rights of every child, not just school or district
   – Quality and adaptability to diverse needs and
   – Non-discrimination not only in access, but in the
     outcomes and impact of policies
   – Dignity in school environments
   – Aims of education toward full development
   – Right to participation, not just involvement
   – Government accountability and obligations
                       International Legal
• The U.S. has ratified two treaties that address the right
  to education and have committees that monitor U.S.

• The Human Rights Committee (HRC) which monitors
  compliance with the International Covenant on Civil
  and Political Rights (ICCPR)

• The Committee on the Elimination of Racial
  Discrimination (CERD) which monitors compliance with
  International Convention on the Elimination of all
  Forms of Discrimination (ICERD)
           CERD Shadow Reporting
• Countries that have ratified the treaty must
  submit a report every four years to CERD. The
  US government submitted its latest report in
  April 2007.

• The Committee accepted Shadow Reports
  from non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  about U.S. compliance with CERD until
  December 2007.

• The Committee questioned representatives of
  the U.S. government at a session in March
  2008 and issued concluding observations.
  Domestic Legal Accountability
• Some local governments have adopted human
  rights treaties
   – San Francisco Ordinance on CEDAW.

• Some federal and state Supreme Court rulings
  have referenced human rights treaties, often
  as the result of amicus briefs filed by human
  rights organizations.

• Every state constitution recognizes the right
  to education, and a few recognize other
  rights, such as housing. Strategies are
  emerging for using international standards in
  state constitutional cases.
 Education as a Human Right

The U.S. government must make a firmer
    commitment to ensuring that every
 woman, man, youth, and child has equal
 access to quality education and to other
   fundamental human rights dependent
  upon realization of the human right to
       Right to Education Resources
•   Achieve Inc.:
•   American Association of University Women:
•   Association for Women in Mathematics:
•   Broad Foundation:
•   Center for Education Policy:
•   Citizen’s Commission on Civil Rights:
•   Communities for Quality Education:
•   Education Trust:
•   MDRC:
•   National Archives for Educators and Students:
•   National Association for Multicultural Education:
•   National Coalition for Equity in Education:
•   National Education Association:
•   Parents for Public Schools:
•   Quality Education for Minorities:
•   SoundOut:
      Discover Human Rights!
                     Download the Discover Human
                        Rights toolkits on the rights
                             to education, housing,
                                  food, and health,
                                       which include
                                quizzes, fact sheets
                            take action ideas, local
                           organizations working on
                      these rights, and lesson plans
                                        for teachers!

 Get Informed   Get Involved     Get Others Interested
American Council on Education. 2006. "Minorities in Higher Education Twenty-second Annual Status Report” in “Students of Color Make Dramatic Gains
in College Enrollment but Still Trail Whites in the Rate at Which They Attend College" Accessed August, 2007 at Publications_and_ Products& CONTENTID =18725&TEMPLATE =/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm.

The Advancement Project and the Civil Rights Project. 2000. “Opportunities Suspended: The Devastating Consequences of Zero Tolerance and School
Discipline Policies. “ Report from a National Summit on Zero Tolerance. Washington, DC, June 15-16, 2000. Accessed November 2007 at

BEST (Building Educational Success Together). 2006. “Growth and Disparity: A Decade of U.S. Public School Construction.” Accessed November 200 at

Biswas, Radha Roy. 2005 “Access to Community College for Undocumented Immigrants: A Guide for State Policymakers.” Achieving the Dream.
Accessed February 2006 at http://www.jff/PDFDocuments/AccesstoCCUndoc.pdf.

Blank, Helen. “Head start under assault: the flaws in the administration's misguided plan.” The American Prospect. November 1, 2004. Accessed
November 2007 at

Children’s Defense Fund. 2004. “Educational Resource Disparities for Minority and Low-Income Children – Quick Facts.” January 2004.

Children’s Defense Fund. 2005. The State of America’s Children.

Cosentino de Cohen, Clemencia and Beatriz Chu Clewel. May 2007. “Putting English Language Learners on the Educational Map: The No Child Left
Behind Act Implemented” Education in Focus, Urban Institute Policy Brief. The Education Policy Center.
Darling-Hammond, Linda. 2007. “Evaluating No Child Left Behind.” The Nation 21 May 2007. Accessed June 2007

de Velasco, Fix and Ruiz. April 2001. “Challenges Facing High Immigrant-Serving Secondary Schools in the Context of Standards Based School
Reform.” The Urban Institute.

Education Trust. 2003. “African American Achievement in America.”Accessed November 2007 at
43FF-81A3-EB94807B917F/0/AfAmer_ Achivement.pdf.

Education Trust. 2006. “EdTrust Releases Funding Gaps 2006.” Press release. December 20, 2006. Accessed November 2007 at
FinAid. 2006 “Financial Aid and Scholarships for Undocumented Students.” FinAid Page. Accessed November 2007 at

Learning First Alliance. 2005. “A Shared Responsibility: Staffing All High-Poverty, Low-Performing Schools with Effective
Teachers and Administrators, A Framework for Action.” Accessed November 2007 at

National Coalition for the Homeless. August 2007. Fact Sheet #10 “Education of Homeless Children and Youth.” Accessed
November 2007 at

NCES - Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics. 2003. “Average TIMSS Mathematics
Scores of 4th- and 8th-Graders, by Country: 2003.” Table. The Condition of Education. Accessed June 2007 at

National Education Association. 2007. “Special Education and the Individuals with Disabilities Act.” Washington DC:
National Education Association. Accessed June 2007 at

National Science Board. 2006. “America’s Pressing Challenge – Building a Stronger Foundation.’ Accessed November 2007

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Demographics and Statistics. 2006. “Disability Status Report.”
Cornell University.

Southern Education Foundation. 2001. “Teacher Salaries in Southern Education States (K-12) 1990-2001).” Accessed
November 2007 at

Sullivan, Liz. 2007. “Reframing School Discipline through Human Rights Standards” Children’s Rights. Vol. 9 Issue 2.
Children’s Rights Litigation Committee, American Bar Association.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education
Programs, “25th Annual (2003) Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,”
Vol. 1, Washington,D.C., 2005.

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