Brown vs. Board of Education established equal access to education, but did not establish a bar on the quality of education. In many US school districts, kids have only had access to sub-standard education; in some schools in Detroit, only 2.2% of students graduate with college-ready scores in reading and English.
The pro-bono legal advocacy organization, Public Counsel, identified that by fighting for a constitutional right to literacy, they could enable to legal conditions to guarantee quality education for all public school learners.
To achieve Public Counsel’s goal, we recognized the need to mobilize cultural support alongside the legal process. To begin, we convened ~150 diverse cultural leaders from philanthropy, entertainment, journalism, cultural institutions, for-profit and non-profit brands. We worked together to determine how to frame this issue to engage popular support.
The cultural and legal fight for the universal right to literacy will be a multi-year effort that will likely go all the way to the Supreme Court. Our aim is to galvanize public support, while Public Counsel continues to advance the groundbreaking legal efforts.
As Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe describes it, “If you think of Brown v. Board as one shoe that dropped, this is the other shoe.” Our mission won’t be realized until that other shoe drops, and everyone, regardless of background or circumstance, has equal opportunity to learn and meaningfully participate in our democracy.
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