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Children’s Right to Early Education in the City of Buenos Aires: A Case Study on ACIJ’s Class Action

By: Fernando Basch

Through a complex litigation strategy that involved freedom of information requests, budget analysis, and media dissemination, the Civil Association for Equality and Justice (Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia, or ACIJ) pressured the formerly reluctant government of the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to acknowledge a legitimate unsatisfied claim related to school vacancies for initial-level education and commit to making significant policy changes.

The city government’s violation of its constitutional obligation to guarantee universal access to early education is not linked to the policies of the party that is in power. Over the years, different administrations have been guilty of the budget allocated to improving school infrastructure.  Former high-ranking officials and ministers of education of different governments of the city of Buenos Aires acknowledged these problems when interviewed by a prominent newspaper crisis that Argentina suffered at the beginning of the 21st century and the impossibility of efficiently administering resources without precise and useful information were given as excuses. Some even confessed to mere inefficiency.

It is important to note that the existing available school spaces are also not equally distributed among the city’s districts. Children who live in the six most disadvantaged districts are less likely to access initial education than those who live in the six most affluent districts.

An expert in education policies, Professor Silvina Gvirtz, suggests that early education may have been consistently neglected by successive city governments because no agent in the education community acts in defense of the children’s interests. Unlike in the U.S., there are no parents associations that play a significant role in education in Argentina. The only two relevant actors are the teachers unions, which mostly concentrate on advancing workers’ interests, and the state, which should but does not always care about children’s rights.  In this context, the intervention of new agents was necessary, and, as is the case in the U.S., courts could play a role in enforcing children’s rights.