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UVA Law to research opportunity gaps with new education law program

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia School of Law is using its historic resources, and a new anonymous donation, to research a long running problem in the country and the Commonwealth: unequal access to high quality education. Brad Kutner has more on the new program.

In 1994 a collection of Virginia school districts sued the Commonwealth claiming the state’s funding scheme created unequal access to education. And while the Virginia Supreme Court declared education a fundamental right under the State constitution, it did not mandate equal spending across districts as the school districts had hoped.

This lack of consistent education funding creates opportunity gaps according to UVA Law’s new Education Rights Institute director Kimberly Jenkins Robinson. It’s an issue she hopes to tackle.

“We get all these test scores, and everyone wrings their hands about the achievement gap, but we’re not living up to this American dream where we say everyone can get a great education and go pursue their dreams,” Robinson told Radio IQ.

Robinson will research the problem and produce a series of reports and easy-to-access videos to help inform the public about the problem. She’ll not only look at school resource distribution, but how race and class feed into unequal schools, and what role charter, magnet and lab schools' play.

“You can learn lessons from some of the very successful schools in the Commonwealth, but I also want to focus on the schools and districts that are often overlooked,” she said.

A $4.9 million anonymous gift is funding the program. An event celebrating the new program is happing Monday, October 16th. Speakers include Virginia's Fourth District Congresswoman and UVA Law grad Jennifer McClellan.

The program starts 1 p.m. in the Law School’s Caplin Pavilion.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Updated: October 13, 2023 at 4:25 PM EDT
Editor's Note: The University of Virginia is a financial supporter of Radio IQ.
Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.