No Federal Right to a Connecticut Education

For years students in Bridgeport, Hartford and other cities have gone to court to find a way to get the education their local public schools never gave them. In September United States District Court judge Alvin Thompson ruled that at least in federal court, students still cannot hold Connecticut liable for this failure.

In this instance the plaintiffs pinned their hopes on magnet and charter schools. They claimed that state officials denied them the opportunity to attend such schools. They argued that Connecticut could not constitutionally keep them out of the only schools that actually prepared them for life.

Judge Thompson held that Connecticut had not denied this opportunity. His reason was simple: no student has a federally-protected right to an education. Like other federal judges, Judge Thompson ruled that the Constitution of the United States does not recognize a ‘right’ to some amount of education.

He added that Connecticut had not treated these inner-city students more unfairly than those in wealthier districts. State officials could have opened more charter and magnet schools. Instead, they offered existing public schools in Connecticut’s cities more money and support. People might disagree with this choice, held the judge, but state officials had reasons for this decision that had nothing to do with targeting poor students for discrimination.

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