How About Students’ Rights?

Eve Rifkin Uncategorized

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I am just now coming back down to earth after the Supreme Court’s monumental decision this past Friday. After so many years of struggle, debate, tension, and anticipation, the court finally granted gay people the right to marry. Whether you live in rural Mississippi or urban New York, your state is now bound by federal law to grant same-sex couples a marriage license.

For years my partner and I had been wondering where to move. Once the state of AZ allowed gay marriage, we were able to take a sigh of relief and settle in for a little longer. Now the question of where to move with regards to where we are allowed to be married is no longer relevant.

But we still talk about moving on a fairly regular basis. Living in the state that is at rock bottom of the educational spending ranks and being the parents of a 3-year old puts us in a tricky position. As an educator of over 20 years, I know how schools struggle. I’m well-aware that teachers are leaving the state in droves. I’ve been on the hiring team for weeks now, searching for a solid math teacher. And I attend conferences and workshops, year after year, with exhausted demoralized educators who are expected to do way too much with far too little.

The 10th amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” This is what the court was pushing against when it made its landmark decision last week.

Since there is no constitutional right to a quality and equitable education, schooling has been left almost entirely up to states. Now that may work well in a state that values public education, has a relatively young population, and high property taxes, but it doesn’t work well when the inverse is true.

I applaud the Supreme Court for making its decision last Friday. And I wonder if the same spirit that resulted in marriage equality for all Americans could ever result in a quality and equitable education for all American children.


Eve Rifkin

Tucson, Arizona

I have been an educator for over 20 years. As a founding co-director of City High School, I have held a variety of leadership and teaching roles, including academic director, humanities teacher, and principal. I am currently the Director of College Access and support students as they envision their lives after high school.

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Comments 1

  1. Sandy Merz

    Here’s some push back on a your post about a topic I think about a lot – how much standardization should there be among states in their education policy? I’d argue first that the Supreme Court case isn’t a good example, because they were deciding one single issue – Should gay marriage be legal in all states? that had one binary answer – Yes or No? What policy in education in education can be expressed as a single issue and what policy has a binary answer? In general, I don’t think there should be much standardization, other that which happens organically – by one state or district trying something new and other groups liking what they see and adopting it. Take just one issue in Arizona – teacher evaluation. I’ve been in meetings with teachers from numerous different teachers talking about the eval tool their district uses. Some liked the tool they were evaluated by, others were ready to leave teaching because of the tool they were judged by. Listening, I’d think, why can’t we all be judged by the same tool? But I realized that there’s little evidence to suggest that the tool would be decided by anyone other that someone powerful for any reason that made much sense. In other words, I think any final merit of their choice would be a matter of luck. So, given the choice between having 10 districts using crappy eval tools and 3 using good ones or having 13 using bad ones, I’d take the former.

    Beyond that, how often do we hear and say that one size doesn’t fit all? But then we also hear many of those same voices supporting national policies for everyone. If teachers lead the way on policy decisions, like eval tools, it will most likely come from working first with their districts then maybe the state. I think it’s much more likely that they would see their efforts rewarded at the local level.

    Anyway, Eve, you can see where my thinking lies on this subject – and you can imagine how much longer I could go on. But I’ll stop now and say thanks for writing a piece that stimulated so much thinking.

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