How the State and Federal Tax Systems Operate to Deny Educational Opportunities to Minorities and Other Lower Income Students

The importance of education cannot be overstated. Education is a core principle of the American Dream, and as such, it is the ticket to a better paying job, homeownership, financial security, and a better way of life. Education is the key factor in reducing poverty and inequality and promoting sustained national economic growth. But while the U.S. Supreme Court has referred to education as “perhaps the most important function of the state and local governments,” it has nevertheless stopped short of declaring education a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution. As a consequence, because education is not considered a fundamental right, it does not have to be offered equally to all.

This Article delves into the many ways in which the education playing field is uneven for minorities and other lower income individuals. Part II discusses discrimination in the funding of primary and secondary (K-12) education that has led to problems of inequality and deprivation and has resulted in a large underclass of uneducated or undereducated individuals, many of whom are minorities. These problems stem from state funding schemes that rely on the property tax system—a system that fosters inequality. Part III examines the problems minorities face in higher education, which are, in some part, a function of the federal tax system. Part IV concludes by summarizing these problems and offering suggestions for improvement.