by Paul Goldman
About this time, roughly 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln began thinking about his powers under the Constitution to free the slaves. It would take another 18 months before he actually issued the “Emancipation Proclamation.” Lincoln cited his constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief as the source of power for issuing the edict. Those who didn’t pay attention in High School often deride the Proclamation as not being worth anything, since it was only operative in states then in rebellion against the Union [and not always in all areas of such states]. The truth is quite different, but we presume that is covered by an SOL question.
Today, nearly 150 years later, we find that the Constitution of Virginia requires – that’s right, requires – the state to make sure “Public schools of high quality” are maintained in all areas of the Commonwealth. Unlike the Emancipation Proclamation, there is no part of Virginia exempt for the mandate. It is right there in Section 1 of Article 8 of Mr. Madison’s original handiwork (amended with this provision as approved by the people 40 or so years ago).
The state of Virginia also backs up this mandate with a statement on its website defining the marker for a high-quality school, at least presumably given what it says and given the markers seemingly used to determine such things in our Commonwealth.
NOW FOR THE LINCOLN PART: As the Richmond Times Dispatch recently reported, the Richmond School Board and School Administration had to concede that for the last 10 years at least, they had been intentionally manipulating the posted mean District SAT score averages to help with the fiction they had created and the Mayor had supported: namely, that the schools in the city met the Constitutional Standard.
This is not to pick on Richmond, since Norfolk is just as guilty of the charade, as is the state Department of Education.
FACT: Richmond, Norfolk, I could name any number of others across the state, have been denying, with the knowing help of state educators and politicians, the right of poor students (middle class too but that is for a different narrative not tied to Lincoln) their constitutional right.
ENTER KEN CUCCINELLI. The Virginia Attorney claims he calls it like he sees it. I have read a lot of his approach to legal analysis. He says he is the steward of the Virginia Constitution.
We will find out. Cuccinelli has the authority, indeed the duty based on his own writings, to make sure these children are not denied their constitutional right by the government, which in this case is the state government operating through local government entities.
Take Richmond, where I live and have tried to effectuate change. As the Richmond Public School leaders just conceded, the high schools in the District do not meet the constitutional standard,
The Richmond school system is over 90% non-white at the High School level, overwhelming children from families with modest incomes. They are smart, they are Americans, they want a chance at the American dream.
We know education is their best hope.
Mr. Cuccinelli knows, as did Mr. Lincoln, that as a group, that these kids have basically no real hope of being all they can be unless the educators and politicians provide them with their constitutional rights.
Right now, Mr. Cuccinelli is their only hope to have any chance of getting these rights
in their K-12 lifetime.
It is a heavy burden that Mr. Cuccinell carries.
Cuccinelli says he is up to the job. It is easy for him to sue the federal government for denying Virginians their constitutional rights. That doesn’t take any legal courage.
But does Cuccinelli have the courage of his convictions to defend these African-American children?
He says he does. But talk is cheap.