caseof_education - The Case of Education In discussing...

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The Case of Education In discussing Friedman's criticisms of equality, I emphasized the intuitive force of the starting-gate ideal of equal opportunity and wondered whether he offers compelling reasons for rejecting that ideal. I want now to return to the intuitive idea. With an eye to exploring it, and to underscoring its force and limits, I propose to explore the case of San Antonio v. Rodriguez . Before getting to the case, a few words about the general issue. Education, it is widely believed, plays an important role in ensuring that we do not live in a caste society, with social position transmitted across the generations. Without easy access to education, children would be much more likely simply to inherit the fate of their parents: part of the role of education, on this common understanding, is to break the close tie between social-class origins and life chances, to create a world of opportunity beyond the confines of the family. Whether this common conviction about the impact on education on mobility and opportunity is right or wrong is a question for sociology, not philosophy. The philosophical question I want to address is whether it would be permissible to raise resources through the tax system—to use the coercive powers of government—to support widespread education if that conventional assumption is true. Does support for equality at the starting gate of life, for aiming to ensure that class background is not life’s fate, provide a good reason for taxing people to support education. We are not concerned principally with whether public resources are used to finance support public schools or to finance vouchers that
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Justice , Spring 2006—2 can be used at private schools. Nor are we asking in general whether public support for education is permissible, because education may also be good for the general welfare: that’s what Friedman says, and that may be reason enough. The issue is whether—contrary to Friedman, and certainly contrary to Nozick— equality of opportunity in the form of starting-gate equality provides a legitimate basis for such support. 1. What are the facts of the case? In the late 1960s, a group of parents in the predominantly Latino Edgewood School District in San Antonio brought a challenge against Texas’s system of school financing. The system had three main components: (i) Texas provided each district with a “foundation grant”: a basic level of resources to ensure a floor under educational expenditures for each child; (ii) Individual districts could supplement that floor (and federal resources) with resources raised from taxes levied on property within the district; (iii) The maximum permissible property tax rate was 1.5 percent. The Edgewood District—poor and 90% Mexican-American—imposed the
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caseof_education - The Case of Education In discussing...

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