The United States does not recognize a fundamental right to education. This is peculiar for several reasons.
All fifty states already have the Right to Education in their constitutions. Even though education is not among the federal government’s enumerated powers, it’s clear that the right to education enjoys wide nationwide support.
Education spending is over 5% of the United States’ gross domestic product. The federal government spent $3.7 trillion on education in 2015. Education is already a top federal priority.
De facto standards continue to emerge in education curriculum, whether driven by Common Core, standards-based education, education technologies or crowd-sourced best practices. Recognizing a federal right to education matches where education is headed.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a treaty that the United States signed but didn’t ratify, includes a right to education. Once the US ratifies, everyone in the US has a right to education.
Ratification will create a federal right to education. It will re-assert the US as a leader in international human rights. The United States is virtually the only developed country that hasn’t ratified. The US is already party to international human rights laws, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the subsequent International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Ratifying the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is not a major shift.
This is a good time to ratify. The United States has exerted most of its international relations efforts negotiating important agreements on climate change, non-proliferation and global trade. Working with the rest of the world to define fundamental rights and is the best form of American leadership.