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Realizing Educational Rights

Advancing School Reform through Courts and Communities

In Realizing Educational Rights, Anne Newman examines two educational rights questions that arise at the intersection of political theory, educational policy, and law: What is the place of a right to education in a participatory democracy, and how can we realize this right in the United States? Tracking these questions across both philosophical and pragmatic terrain, she addresses urgent moral and political questions, offering a rare, double-pronged look at educational justice in a democratic society.

Newman argues that an adequate K–12 education is the right of all citizens, as a matter of equality, and emphasizes that this right must be shielded from the sway of partisan and majoritarian policy making far more than it currently is. She then examines how educational rights are realized in our current democratic structure, offering two case studies of leading types of rights-based activism: school finance litigation on the state level and the mobilization of citizens through community-based organizations. Bringing these case studies together with rich philosophical analysis, Realizing Educational Rights advances understanding of the relationships among moral and legal rights, education reform, and democratic politics. 

168 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2013

Education: Education--Economics, Law, Politics, Philosophy of Education

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society

Philosophy: Philosophy of Society

Political Science: Political and Social Theory


Realizing Educational Rights is an important book. It breaks new ground in the manner in which it weds theory and practice. Anne Newman reconciles ‘rights talk’ and participatory democracy by demonstrating through concrete examples of court cases and community activism how the language of ‘rights’ can help provide students specific skills in areas like voting and free expression—which they need if they are to function productively as civic participants. She lucidly puts into perspective the major writings on rights, deliberative democracy, judicial review, and social reform—advancing thinking in each of these areas—and also develops an important conceptual framework that bridges the world of academic scholarship, legal analysis, and community organizing.”

Michael A. Rebell, author of Courts and Kids

“Newman provides a comprehensive yet accessible argument for educational rights as an issue of political equality. . . . The interweaving of theory and pragmatism in Realizing Educational Rights results in a volume that will have wide appeal to diverse populations with interests in the areas of educational philosophy, law, and policy. Consequently, the book is an important and valuable contribution to the evolution of a rights discourse in the area of educational equality and access. . . . Highly recommended.”


“Anne Newman’s study of the right to education in America combines trenchant philosophical analysis with exemplary political street smarts about the assets and liabilities of rights talk in both litigation and community organizing. This is a masterly interdisciplinary study that will be read and argued about for years to come.”

Eamonn Callan, author of Creating Citizens

Realizing Educational Rights combines astute philosophical and legal analysis with rich case study material to make a compelling case for education as both a fundamental human right and as a necessary condition for deliberative democracy. Anne Newman’s book shines a valuable light on the relations between moral engagement, legal argument, and community empowerment. It is an important contribution to both educational and political philosophy and should be read by anyone who has an interest in the role of education in advancing democracy.”

Walter Feinberg, author of For Goodness Sake

Table of Contents

Part One: Educational Rights in Theory
1. Education Policy Making in the Shadow of an Enduring Democratic Dilemma           
2. The Shape of a Right to Education   
3. Historical Attempts to Advance a Right to Education
Part Two: Educational Rights in Practice
4. The Rose Case: A Case Study in Legal Advocacy    
5. Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth: A Case Study in Community Organizing           
6. Conclusion: Collaborating to Realize Rights  


Education Law Association: Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law

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