The good news comes from the Supreme Court of the United States, which has decided that it will hear arguments on whether or not same-sex couples have a right to marry. This New York Times story summarizes the cases from Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky that are at the heart of an appeal of a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit which the High Nine have now agreed to consider.
The court said it will hear two and a half hours of argument, probably in the last week of April. The first 90 minutes will be devoted to the question of whether the Constitution requires states “to license a marriage between two people of the same sex.”
The last hour will concern a question that will be moot if the answer to the The first one is yes: whether states must “recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state.”
This is very exciting: within just a few months we’ll have a ruling from the country’s highest court on whether same-sex marriage is to be permitted in all 50 states, not just the 36 states and the District of Columbia where it is legal now.
Now, the bad news: the Southern Education Foundation believes that “For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families.” The Washington Post has a good summary of the report.
Half of all public school students in America are poor? Half?! (More than half in 21 states; Mississippi at 71% has the highest percentage.) I find myself surprised by this confirmation of how far the abandonment of our public schools has gone by those who can afford other options. (Full disclosure: although most of my education was in public schools, I attended and graduated from a private high school.) A free public education for all was a great example of America’s commitment to a society where everyone has an opportunity to succeed. We all paid our share for public schools, even those who sent their kids to private school or whose kids had finished school or who never had any kids at all, because it meant a better-educated society and that was a benefit for all of us.
But more and more, people became unhappy with their public school systems. When the quality of the education declined people got upset that their kids were being cheated out of their futures; in some cases it was court-ordered desegregation that made people unhappy with their public schools. Many of those who could afford to moved to suburban school districts and took their tax money with them, leaving the city schools with less and less money to spend on teachers and books and buildings. Which meant even poorer quality education, which prompted more parents to flee, and the cycle continued.
Today people are trying to get voucher laws passed that will in effect allow their school tax money to pay for their kid’s education in private schools, taking even more money out of the system that is the only resort for the poor, the students whose families can’t afford private schools or charter schools or anything other than the old school down the street.
I understand that parents want the best for their children; I get it that despite recent improvements our economy isn’t as strong as it once was and a lot of people don’t have the jobs and income they want and deserve. Still, I’m saddened at how many people seem to feel that abandoning the greater good for American society—the education of everyone else’s children—is the best way for them to take care of their own.