When Did Education Become a Civil Right? An Assessment of State Constitutional Provisions for Education, 1776-1900

American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 42, p. 1, January 1998

34 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2006

See all articles by John C. Eastman

John C. Eastman

Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence

Abstract

This article provides a comprehensive review of provisions for public education found in American state constitutions from 1776 through 1900, chronologically tracing the pedigrees of the different formulations. It concludes that most provisions merely provided hortatory guidelines for legislatures, not judicially-enforceable rights to specific levels of taxpayer-supported education, and that even the few state constitutional provisions that appeared to impose certain mandates on the state legislatures were not interpreted in that fashion. Instead of a rights-based jurisprudence, equal protection analysis took over following adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, leading courts to focus on the equality of funding inputs rather than any particular substantive guarantee.

Keywords: Public education, state constitutions, equal protection

JEL Classification: H41, H42, H52, H70, H72, I2, I20, I21, I22,I28,I29

Suggested Citation

Eastman, John C., When Did Education Become a Civil Right? An Assessment of State Constitutional Provisions for Education, 1776-1900. American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 42, p. 1, January 1998, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=905886

John C. Eastman (Contact Author)

Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence

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