University of Virginia Law Establishes Education Rights Institute

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The University of Virginia School of Law is launching a new Education Rights Institute to enhance understanding, scholarship, and resources for K-20 schools and disadvantaged students.

The institute’s mission includes elevating scholarship about the federal right to a high-quality education that prepares students to be college- and career-ready; helping schools understand their obligations to protect students’ civil rights and helping districts locate federal resources; and enhancing research and data about educational inequities and how federal resources can address opportunity gaps.

The institute will launch with a campus event on October 16. The project was made possible with $4.9 million in anonymous funding.

Leading the institute is Kimberly Jenkins Robinson, JD, Martha Lubin Karsh and Bruce A. Karsh Bicentennial Professor of Law and director of the law school’s Center for the Study of Race and Law. Robinson is a leading education law expert who speaks nationwide about K-12 educational equity, school funding, education and democracy, civil rights, and Title IX. She previously served as an attorney with the General Counsel’s Office of the U.S. Department of Education.

In addition to Robinson, three full-time employees and several UVA law students will support the institute. Staff will help research and write reports, collaborate with and provide resources and information to school districts and the public, and plan events.

This work is critical for schools with low funding, as students suffer in various ways, including receiving less-experienced teachers and facing poor infrastructure, Robinson said in a statement. As a result, these districts typically require greater funding opportunities to overcome challenges.

“The data show that more than half of the states give the same or less funding to school districts with high concentrations of poverty, which is the exact opposite of what the research says to do — give more resources to school districts with greater poverty,” Robinson said. “We’re the only wealthy nation that provides less funding to disadvantaged students. We are undermining our education system and the democracy, economy, and society that relies on it to thrive.”