The Public Right to Education

The University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 89, No. 5, 2022

Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 22-25

67 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2022

See all articles by Matthew Patrick Shaw

Matthew Patrick Shaw

Vanderbilt University - Law School; American Bar Foundation

Date Written: February 16, 2021


Public education is “the most important function of state and local government” and yet not a “fundamental right or liberty.” This Article engages one of constitutional law’s most intractable problems by introducing “the public right to education” as a doctrinal pathway to a constitutional right to education process in three steps. First, it identifies that the otherwise right-to-education foreclosing case, San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, only contemplated education as a fundamental right or liberty interest. Second, by identifying public education as a due process–protected property interest, this Article presents a viable pathway for circumventing Rodriguez. Third, mindful of myriad judicial competency concerns and consistent with the Court’s recent call to reimagine a “twenty-first century” due process, it reintroduces the “public right” to understand how schoolchildren might appeal to substantive due process to protect their rights to state-created interests. This ambitious yet modest approach covers securing schoolchildren’s rights to both discrete education tangibles and the integral educational opportunity that the states have assumed the affirmative duty to provide. This approach also has promise for improving individual rights to quality public schooling.

Keywords: education as property, education rights, public right to education, substantive due process

Suggested Citation

Shaw, Matthew Patrick, The Public Right to Education (February 16, 2021). The University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 89, No. 5, 2022, Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 22-25, Available at SSRN:

Matthew Patrick Shaw (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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