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The Struggle to Ensure Educational Opportunity in Massachusetts

amy reichbach

Amy Reichbach graduated as the valedictorian of the Boston College Law School Class of 2005. She currently clerks for Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Reichbach graduated from Brown University in 1995 and earned her teacher certification and Master of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996. Prior to law school, she taught in the School District of Philadelphia and worked as director of a delinquency-prevention program. While at Boston College Law School, Reichbach served as Solicitations Editor of the Boston College Law Review and practiced educational advocacy through the Juvenile Rights Advocacy Project, the Legal Assistance Bureau, and summer internships at the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts and the EdLaw Project.

Reichbach would like to thank her former students for inspiring her, Boston College Law School Professors Sharon Beckman, Phyllis Goldfarb, and Judy Tracy for teaching her the transformative potential of law, her partner Marjorie Soto for “keeping it real,” and Joyce Dalrymple for her assistance in writing this article. The views expressed in this article are Reichbach’s own, and do not purport to represent the views of Chief Justice Marshall or the Supreme Judicial Court.

Twenty years after the United States Supreme Court held that there is no federal constitutional right to education, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 1993 ruled in McDuffy v. Secretary of the Executive Office of Education, that the state constitution imposes on the Commonwealth an "enforceable duty" to "provide education in the public schools for the children there enrolled, whether they be rich or poor and without regard to the fiscal capacity of the community or district in which such children live." But McDuffy's promise of an adequate education for all children of the Commonwealth was never fully realized, and a new group of plaintiffs brought the case back to the SJC, seeking further remedial relief. Last year, in Hancock v. Commissioner of Education, the court acknowledged that "serious inadequacies in public education remain," but concluded that the legislature was doing its best to tackle a difficult problem and declined the plaintiffs' invitation to intervene. In the wake of Hancock, what can lawyers and others do to realize McDuffy's promise of an adequate education?

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