Justiciability of the Right to Education

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During this session of the UN Human Rights Council (May 27 to June 14), Kishore Singh, the UN Special Rapporteur for Right to Education, presented a report that describes the ways in which the right to education (which is characterized as an “economic, social, and cultural right” in UN treaties) is  justiciable.  In the report, he also encourages States to promote access to courts for people who claim violations of the right to education.

Many member-states supported the recommendations in his report during the Human Rights Council meeting as you can see from this video.  Portugal even introduced a resolution calling for States to create mechanisms to make education rights more justifiable.

The United States representative, however, expressed concern in regard to several aspects of the report.  The representative, for example, said “while quality of education is the highest of ideals and something we strive for in our schools daily, we do not agree with the phrasing in this report implying that existing rights include quality education.”  This statement comes at a time when we are seeing a crises in our public education system across the nation.  We essentially have a dual public school system— some schools provide quality education while others do not.  Several cities are closing schools (in many cases in minority communities).  Chicago’s Board of Education is closing over 10% of its public schools effective at the end of this school year.  Additionally, the United States representative disagreed with Mr. Singh’s interpretation of a 2003 New York Court of Appeals decision that teacher quality is justiciable.

I had an opportunity to participate in a side-event during this Human Rights Council session on promoting justiciability of the right to education by using indicators in litigation.

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