The hearts of retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page and Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari in proposing a constitutional amendment creating a fundamental right for all children to receive a quality public education are in the right place, and their goals are laudatory (“An invitation to judicial politics,” D.J. Tice column, Jan. 19).
However, before adopting the proposed constitutional amendment, we should consider something else: A fundamental right from the time a child is born and throughout his or her childhood to have the following basics for success:
- Being raised in a loving and nurturing home by one or more adults.
- Stable housing.
- Nutritious food.
- Medical care, screening and treatment for conditions that affect health and learning.
- A community where adults value and ensure these basics for all children and families.
We know that children who are “ready” to enter kindergarten generally succeed in school, particularly if they consistently attend school and continue receiving these basics for success.
We know (from the work of Arthur Rolnick) that the return on investment (ROI) for targeted pre-K early childhood education is 16 times in societal benefits for every $1 dollar invested. An ROI of 16 is one any good business person, millionaire or even billionaire would admire.
A constitutional amendment directed only at K-12 public schools does not address the lack of commitment by communities to providing these basics for all children. Litigation in the court system over the meaning and standards applied to measure a “fundamental right” to education as applied to K-12 public schools is also unlikely to focus on these basics, or create the commitment necessary to provide them to all children.
I suggest changing attitudes and turning political gridlock into positive action and investment for the future of all our children and grandchildren.