Skip to content

Martha Minow, San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez at Fifty: Contingencies, Consequences, and Calls to Action, 55 Loy. U. Chi. L.J. 363 (2023).

Abstract: When the Supreme Court of the United States decided San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, the Court's five-to-four decision not only closed the door to federal courts to predominantly Mexican American low-income students seeking constitutional protection against unequal public education; it also rejected claims of federal constitutional right to equal educational opportunity, rebuffed calls for heightened judicial scrutiny of classifications drawn on the basis of wealth or poverty, and let stand unaltered school finance arrangements producing different per pupil expenditures depending solely on where students live. Setbacks though can inspire. Faced with the decision in Rodriguez, advocates pursued efforts in federal legislation reforms, expanded federal aid to schools with predominantly low-income students, and state-based litigation and reform efforts. And because the Rodriguez decision rejected stringent judicial scrutiny of wealth-based classifications, it opened the door to the use of socioeconomic status as a priority for admission to educational programs. Such creative responses are also legacies of Rodriguez. Current serious challenges can and should similarly elicit resilient and inventive approaches, including the uses of digital and technology resources as well as greater self-direction for students and their teachers in a world soon to be reshaped by readily available artificial intelligence resources. Although disappointment with public schooling has led families of different racial, ethnic, and income groups to pursue charter schools, vouchers or tax credits for use in private schools or family-funded private schooling, and homeschooling, new technologies and resources can strengthen equal educational opportunities for all children in the nation.