The large and growing proportion of U.S. students who come from poverty backgrounds explains this country’s relatively low performance on international achievement tests. These students need a broad range of comprehensive educational services if they are to have a meaningful opportunity to succeed in school. These opportunities include not only adequate resources for basic K–12 educational services but also parent engagement, health and other services, and additional early education, after-school, and summer programs. In most states, the schools attended by students with the greatest needs tend to receive the fewest resources because of the inequitable systems most states use for financing public education.

The United States’ critical educational goals cannot be met unless the courts undertake a more active, sustained role in establishing a constitutional right to comprehensive educational opportunity and in pressing states to provide the schools sufficient resources to provide all students meaningful educational opportunities. The courts can effectively undertake this role, in a manner that is consistent with constitutional separation of powers requirements, by focusing on the comparative institutional strengths of each of the three branches of government.



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