Institute for Educational Equity and Opportunity (IFEEO) has reopened the national debate on a right to education with the
release of an exciting new publication, Education in the 50 States: A Deskbook of the History of State Constitutions and
Laws About Education. This Deskbook was prepared by legal and American history scholars at the Public
Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) under a grant from IFEEO.
which is the first of its kind, explores the earliest history of education in each of the 50 states. The
book demonstrates that early colonists and those who settled the territories consistently established, as one of their very
first acts, schools and the administrations to govern them. They explained their pressing need for education
in terms that remained remarkably the same beginning in the 1600s and continuing through the 20th
century: a vital democracy requires educated citizens who have the tools necessary to vote, train the next generation of leaders
and perform useful work. The histories also show education’s powerful role in bringing together people with widely dissimilar
cultures to form a national identity and cohesiveness.
The Deskbook contains:
A 45-page introduction and narrative history of the education clauses
in all 50 states, tying together the evolution of education in the states from the Colonial Period through the developing
A State Educational Histories Summaries 114-page section that includes
for each state a timeline of significant education-related events, a narrative summary of the history of education in that
state, and a rich bibliography of books and documents used, including many little known or hard-to-find sources.
An Appendix that lists the education clause in each state from first
adoption to present language.
Jennifer Clarke, PILCOP Executive Director and a contributor
to the book, said that many state courts around the country have used histories to decide whether the constitutions in those
states create a right to an education. She said that the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1973 that the U.S. Constitution does
not contain a right to an education, but the Court did not have the evidence before it of the deep and densely woven connections
between education and the idea of a “citizen” that was embodied in the Constitution.
“We hope that the histories in this book will inform the public
and the policymakers about our founders’ earliest motivations for creating and founding educational institutions,”
said Sheilah Vance, IFEEO President and General Counsel. “We see that the reality and the ideal of
education was already deeply embedded in the formation of each state, and the reasons those founders gave for establishing
schools are as fresh today as they were at the time.”
Education in the 50 States:
A Deskbook of the History of State Constitutions and Laws about Education, a 228-page publication in trade paperback form, ISBN 978-0-615-23520-2, on sale now for $24.50 (normally $49.95),
is available at bookstores and on-line booksellers everywhere. It can also be purchased directly from IFEEO on the Buy
Books page on this website. An informative 80-page excerpt is available for free download by clicking on the link