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53 U. Louisville L. Rev. 351 (2015)
On the Constitutional Sufficiency of the Modern Kentucky School System
Joshua A.J. Collins*
Disparity between the education of the wealthy and the poor is not a new or novel problem for our society. In fact, the issue of inequality of our education systems has been the focus of our political leaders for some time. In the century since Delegate Moore extolled the virtues of common schools, great educational advances have made free public education available to all citizens of the Commonwealth. Yet, we still seek a more perfect union: a system that incorporates equality into education. Pursuing excellence in education has propelled us through periods of upheaval in our education system, while competing visions and a multitude of growing responsibilities for our common schools have often redirected that drive. Important secondary issues in our schools often draw the focus away from primary duties, and it often takes a major force to refocus and realign efforts. In Kentucky, such a corrective realignment has occurred before, and it could happen again. In Rose v. Council for Better Education, Inc., the Supreme Court of Kentucky confronted overwhelming evidence of an unequal, inefficient, and failing system with a constitution that required an efficient system of schools. The court took the unprecedented step of declaring the state’s entire public school system unconstitutional. The court identified the core characteristics required by the Kentucky Constitution and placed the responsibility to develop such a system at the feet of the General Assembly. This sparked a series of educational reform efforts that are still playing out today. Twenty-six years after Rose, it is important to ask: Have these reform movements brought the system into alignment with the constitution? To truly understand the impact of this decision, one must evaluate the system today by the criteria that the court identified in the past. One must compare data from today with the goals of the Rose decision. If reform efforts have not improved the system in all aspects beyond their status in 1989, then our system remains constitutionally imperfect. Part II of this Note discusses the history surrounding the Rose decision and the reform efforts that followed. Next, Part III analyzes our current system of common schools using Rose as a guide. Finally, in Part IV, this Note offers solutions and areas to explore to find a more perfect educational system.
* J.D. Candidate, May 2015, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, University of Louisville; M.A.T., 2009, Morehead State University; B.A., 2006, Western Kentucky University. This Note would not have been possible without Dr. O. Taylor and Kari Collins, the greatest educators I have ever known. I am forever grateful to my family and friends. For Noah, Arthur, Evan, and all Kentucky’s kids and the Kentucky teachers who care for them.