Education policy debate: A federal right to education? - AEI



Experts Debate. Audience Decides.
Motion: The Supreme Court was wrong on Rodriguez; there should be a federal right to education.

Event Summary

Thursday at AEI, experts debated whether there should be a federal right to education and whether the Supreme Court erred in its 1973 Rodriguez decision. Earl Maltz of Rutgers Law School and Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute argued against the motion, and Derek Black of the University of South Carolina School of Law and Kimberly Robinson of the University of Richmond School of Law argued for the motion. Topics discussed in the debate included education in the context of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, statutory and constitutional rights, federalism, local control of schools, and what a federal right to education would look like in practice.

Before and after the debate, we polled our live and online audience on the motion. Among those who voted both before and after the debate, the results were as follows.

Because Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Maltz, the team opposed to the motion, moved a greater share of votes in their direction, they were declared the winner.

— Connor Kurtz

Event Description

The AEI Education Policy Debate Series brings together experts of opposing views to debate some of the most contentious issues in education policy. This competition of ideas unfolds before a live audience, which then votes at the end of the debate to decide the winner.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled 5–4 that there is not a federal right to education. This landmark decision, San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, was controversial from the outset, and it remains so today. Questions continue to abound about the federal role in ensuring equal access to education and, absent a federal right, whether states can ensure equity.

Join AEI for a wine and cheese reception and a debate between leading scholars on whether the Supreme Court was wrong on Rodriguez and whether there should be a federal right to education. The audience will vote at the beginning and at the end to determine the winner.

Join the conversation on social media with #AEIDebate.


5:45 PM
Registration and wine and cheese reception

6:00 PM
Welcome and audience initial vote


Derek Black, University of South Carolina School of Law
Earl Maltz, Rutgers Law School
Kimberly Robinson, University of Richmond School of Law
Ilya Shapiro, Cato Institute

Nat Malkus, AEI

7:05 PM
Audience final vote and results

7:15 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Connor Kurtz at [email protected], 202.862.5809.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries or to register a camera crew, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Derek Black is a professor of law at the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he studies the intersection of constitutional law and public education, particularly in regard to educational equality. Before teaching, he was a litigator at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Nat Malkus is a resident scholar and the deputy director of education policy at AEI, where he uses empirical research and quantitative data to analyze issues in K–12 education, including Advanced Placement, teachers unions, charter schools, standardized testing, and high school credit recovery programs. He received a Ph.D. in education policy and leadership from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Earl Maltz is a distinguished professor of law at Rutgers Law School. His work focuses on constitutional law, statutory interpretation, the role of courts, and legal history. Mr. Maltz has authored nine books and more than 50 articles on constitutional law. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

Kimberly Robinson is a visiting professor at the University of Virginia Law School and the Austin E. Owen Research Scholar and professor of law at the University of Richmond School of Law. She has written a book on the federal right to education, “Thoughts on a Federal Right to Education” (New York University Press, forthcoming), and coedited another, “The Enduring Legacy of Rodriguez: Creating New Pathways to Equal Educational Opportunity” (Harvard Education Press, 2015). Her work focuses on civil rights, equity, and the role of the federal government in education. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

Ilya Shapiro is the director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute. He is the coauthor of “Religious Liberties for Corporations? Hobby Lobby, the Affordable Care Act, and the Constitution” (Palgrave Pivot, 2014) and provides commentary on CNN, Fox News, CBS, and other networks. He graduated from the University of Chicago Law School.

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