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AN OVERVIEW OF EDUCATION LAW, TEXAS SCHOOLS, AND PARENT RIGHTS William Allan Kritsonis, PhD
Constitutional Law • Power over education is a state function as declared by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. • By 1918 all states have compulsory school laws. • States do not have to set up public school systems. • 1973 San Antonio I.S.D. v. Rodriguez: the US Supreme Court decided that education is not a fundamental right available to all persons.
Statutory Law • A statute is a law enacted by a legislative body. Most statutes passed by the Texas Legislature that directly affect education are grouped together in the Texas Education Code (TEC). • The Code is an important source of law because it applies to the daily operation of schools, detailing the responsibilities and duties of the State Board of Education (SBOE), the Texas Education Agency (TEA), school boards, charter schools, and school personnel.
Administrative Law • Administrative law consists of the rules, regulations, and decisions that are issued by administrative bodies to implement state and federal statutory laws. • Administrative law also includes the rules and regulations that state agencies establish to carry out their responsibilities. In the education context, this responsibility lies with the State Board of Education and the Texas Commissioner of Education.
Judicial Law • Judicial law is composed of state and federal court decisions. • Composition of the Texas Judiciary System: • District courts are the major trial courts in the state judicial system, having jurisdiction over major criminal and civil matters. • From a district court, an appeal goes to one of the fourteen courts located throughout the state, and finally to the Texas Supreme Court. • An appeal from a Travis County district court goes to the Third Court of Appeals in Austin. • The Third Court, by virtue of its jurisdiction over appeals from the district courts of Travis County, has great influence over the development of educational and other public law matters. • Only the Texas Supreme Court can speak for the entire state in civil matters. • For criminal matters, the highest court is the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. • Texas has two supreme courts, one for civil matters and one for criminal matters.
THE STRUCTURE AND GOVERNANCE OF THE TEXAS SCHOOL SYSTEM • TEXAS LEGISLATURE • The Texas legislature is responsible for the structure and operation of the Texas public school system. • STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/ ) • The SBOE is a powerful entity; its designated duties are establishing a state curriculum and graduation requirements, determining the standard for satisfactory student performance on assessment instruments, adopting and purchasing state textbooks, and investing the permanent school funds.
THE STRUCTURE AND GOVERNANCE OF THE TEXAS SCHOOL SYSTEM • THE TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY (www.tea.state.tx.us) • Other than the legislature, the most powerful state-level player is the Texas Commissioner of Education, whom the governor appoints and removes with the advice and consent of the Texas Senate. The commissioner serves a four year term and the only qualification for serving as commissioner is US citizenship. The commissioner also serves as the executive officer and executive secretary of the State Board of Education
THE STRUCTURE AND GOVERNANCE OF THE TEXAS SCHOOL SYSTEM • Local School Districts • The governance of schools clearly is left to local boards of trustees. • School board trustees serve a term of 3 or 4 years. The members terms are staggering. A person must be an eligible voter to be qualified for office as a trustee. Trustees serve without compensation. The state board is required to provide a training program for school board members through the regional service centers. Other training programs are offered through professional associations such as the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) http://www.tasb.org/.
THE STRUCTURE AND GOVERNANCE OF THE TEXAS SCHOOL SYSTEM • Private Schools • In a 1925 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that the states cannot require all children to attend public schools only (Pierce v. Society of Sisters).
HOW THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AFFECT TEXAS SCHOOLS • Key Provisions of the U.S. Constitution • The Bill of Rights of the US Constitution- where most of our basic civil liberties are included. The First Amendment is particularly important, for it lists several liberties inherent in a democratic society: the right to be free from governmental control in the exercise of speech, publication, religious preference, and assembly (these only apply to the federal government.) • The fourteenth amendment—“nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” These two clauses together with the federal laws that implement them, provide the basis for constitutional rights suits against public educational institutions and personnel. • The fourteenth amendment applies to school districts and personnel because they are viewed as political subdivisions of the state; the fourteenth amendment does not apply to private schools.
HOW THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AFFECT TEXAS SCHOOLS • Important Federal Statutes • Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits intentional discrimination with respect to race, color, or national origin in federally assisted programs. This law was instrumental in the desegregation of schools during the 60’s and 70’s. • Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in all aspects of public and private employment. This law allows money damages for intentional discrimination. • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 accords persons with disabilities meaningful access to the programs and facilities of public and private schools as well as most businesses in the country. The statue also prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in pubic and private employment, and requires employers to make reasonable accommodation for disabled persons to enable them to perform the job. Money damages are available for intentional discrimination.
HOW THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AFFECT TEXAS SCHOOLS • Important Federal Statutes • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires public schools to identify children with disabilities and provide them a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. • Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments prohibits discrimination against persons on the basis of sex in any federally assisted education program. Title IX has gained major significance in the context of student and employee sexual harassment. • No Child Left Behind attempts to raise student achievement levels by holding states and school districts to strict accountability standards. Each state must ensure that students make adequate yearly progress so that all students will be performing at grade level by the year 2013-2014.
HOW THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AFFECT TEXAS SCHOOLS • School Finance • With growth, an imbalance between urban and rural districts became apparent. With the enactment of the Gilmer-Aikin Bill in 1949 did reform occur. This bill later became the focus of San Antonio ISD v. Rodriguez. The bill established a Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), through which state funds for personnel and operations were distributed and established a minimum below which no state could go. The MFP involved both local and state contributions to a special fund; 80% from the state, the rest from local districts. Each local district had to levy a property tax to support its contribution. Inequities continued because local districts remained free to enrich their contributions for their schools beyond the MFP local fund assignment. • The plaintiffs in the San Antonio ISD v. Rodriguez lawsuit tried to convince the courts that this system of educational finance violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The 3 judge federal district court agreed, but the US Supreme Court did not.
HOW THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AFFECT TEXAS SCHOOLS • Parent Rights • While constitutional law generally does not support parent rights in public schooling, Texas statutory law provides significant support for parents. The first objective of the public education system is that “Parents will be full partners with educators in the education of their children.”