MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether a State, consistently with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, may refuse to employ as elementary and secondary school teachers aliens who are eligible for United States citizenship but who refuse to seek naturalization.
New York Education Law § 3001 (3) (McKinney 1970) forbids certification as a public school teacher of any person who is not a citizen of the United States, unless that person has
A three-judge District Court was convened pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 2281 (1970 ed.). Applying the "close judicial scrutiny" standard of Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 372 (1971), the court held that § 3001 (3) discriminated against aliens in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Norwick v. Nyquist, 417 F.Supp. 913 (SDNY 1976). The court believed that the statute was overbroad, because it excluded all resident aliens from all teaching jobs regardless of the subject sought to be taught, the alien's nationality, the nature of the
The decisions of this Court regarding the permissibility of statutory classifications involving aliens have not formed an unwavering line over the years. State regulation of the employment of aliens long has been subject to constitutional constraints. In Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356 (1886), the Court struck down an ordinance which was applied to prevent aliens from running laundries, and in Truax v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33 (1915), a law requiring at least 80% of the employees of certain businesses to be citizens was held to be an unconstitutional infringement of an alien's "right to work for a living in the common occupations of the community . . . ." Id., at 41. At the same time, however, the Court also has recognized a greater degree of latitude for the States when aliens were sought to be excluded from public employment. At the time Truax was decided, the governing doctrine permitted States to exclude aliens from various activities when the restriction pertained to "the regulation or distribution of the public domain, or of the common property or resources of the people of the State . . . ." Id., at 39. Hence, as part of a larger authority to forbid aliens from owning land. Frick v. Webb, 263 U.S. 326 (1923); Webb v. O'Brien, 263 U.S. 313 (1923); Porterfield v. Webb, 263 U.S. 225 (1923); Terrace v. Thompson, 263 U.S. 197 (1923); Blythe v. Hinckley, 180 U.S. 333 (1901); Hauenstein v. Lynham, 100 U.S. 483 (1880); harvesting wildlife, Patsone v. Pennsylvania, 232 U.S. 138 (1914); McCready v. Virginia, 94 U.S. 391 (1877);
Over time, the Court's decisions gradually have restricted the activities from which States are free to exclude aliens. The first sign that the Court would question the constitutionality of discrimination against aliens even in areas affected with a "public interest" appeared in Oyama v. California, 332 U.S. 633 (1948). The Court there held that statutory presumptions designed to discourage evasion of California's ban on alien landholding discriminated against the citizen children of aliens. The same Term, the Court held that the "ownership" a State exercises over fish found in its territorial waters "is inadequate to justify California in excluding any or all aliens who are lawful residents of the State from making a living by fishing in the ocean off its shores while permitting all others to do so." Takahashi v. Fish & Game Comm'n, 334 U.S. 410, 421 (1948). This process of withdrawal from the former doctrine culminated in Graham v. Richardson, supra, which for the first time treated classifications based on alienage as "inherently suspect and subject to close judicial scrutiny." 403 U. S., at 372. Applying Graham, this Court has held invalid statutes that prevented aliens from entering a State's classified civil service, Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U.S. 634 (1973), practicing law, In re Griffiths, 413 U.S. 717 (1973), working as an engineer, Examining Board v. Flores de Otero, 426 U.S. 572 (1976), and receiving state educational benefits, Nyquist v. Mauclet, 432 U.S. 1 (1977).
Although our more recent decisions have departed substantially from the public-interest doctrine of Truax's day, they have not abandoned the general principle that some state functions are so bound up with the operation of the State as
The exclusion of aliens from such governmental positions would not invite as demanding scrutiny from this Court. Id., at 648. See also Nyquist v. Mauclet, supra, at 11; Perkins v. Smith, 370 F.Supp. 134 (Md. 1974), summarily aff'd, 426 U.S. 913 (1976).
Applying the rational-basis standard, we held last Term that New York could exclude aliens from the ranks of its police force. Foley v. Connelie, 435 U.S. 291 (1978). Because the police function fulfilled "a most fundamental obligation of government to its constituency" and by necessity cloaked policemen with substantial discretionary powers, we viewed the police force as being one of those appropriately defined classes of positions for which a citizenship requirement could be imposed. Id., at 297. Accordingly, the State was required to justify its classification only "by a showing of some rational relationship between the interest sought to be protected and the limiting classification." Id., at 296.
In determining whether, for purposes of equal protection analysis, teaching in public schools constitutes a governmental function, we look to the role of public education and to the degree of responsibility and discretion teachers possess in fulfilling that role. See Foley v. Connelie, supra, at 297. Each of these considerations supports the conclusion that public school teachers may be regarded as performing a task "that
Public education, like the police function, "fulfills a most fundamental obligation of government to its constituency." Foley, supra, at 297. The importance of public schools in the preparation of individuals for participation as citizens, and in the preservation of the values on which our society rests, long has been recognized by our decisions:
See also Keyes v. School Dist. No. 1, Denver, Colo., 413 U.S. 189, 246 (1973) (POWELL, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part); San Antonio Independent School Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 29-30 (1973); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 213 (1972); id., at 238-239 (WHITE, J., concurring); Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 230 (1963) (BRENNAN, J., concurring); Adler v. Board of Education, 342 U.S. 485, 493 (1952); McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, 212 (1948) (opinion of Frankfurter, J.); Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923); Interstate Consolidated Street R. Co. v. Massachusetts, 207 U.S. 79 (1907).
Within the public school system, teachers play a critical part in developing students' attitude toward government and understanding of the role of citizens in our society. Alone among employees of the system, teachers are in direct, day-to-day contact with students both in the classrooms and in the other varied activities of a modern school. In shaping the students' experience to achieve educational goals, teachers by necessity have wide discretion over the way the course material is communicated to students. They are responsible for presenting and explaining the subject matter in a way that is both comprehensible and inspiring. No amount of standardization of teaching materials or lesson plans can eliminate the personal qualities a teacher brings to bear in achieving these goals. Further, a teacher serves as a role model for his students, exerting a subtle but important influence over their
Furthermore, it is clear that all public school teachers, and not just those responsible for teaching the courses most directly related to government, history, and civic duties, should
As the legitimacy of the State's interest in furthering the educational goals outlined above is undoubted, it remains only to consider whether § 3001 (3) bears a rational relationship to this interest. The restriction is carefully framed to serve its purpose, as it bars from teaching only those aliens who have demonstrated their unwillingness to obtain United States citizenship.
MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, and MR. JUSTICE STEVENS join, dissenting.
Once again the Court is asked to rule upon the constitutionality of one of New York's many statutes that impose a
As the Court acknowledges, ante, at 72, its decisions regarding the permissibility of statutory classifications concerning aliens "have not formed an unwavering line over the years."
On the other hand, the Court frequently has invalidated a state provision that denies a resident alien the right to engage in specified occupational activity: Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356 (1886) (ordinance applied so as to prevent Chinese subjects from engaging in the laundry business); Truax v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33 (1915) (statute requiring an employer's work force to be composed of not less than 80% "qualified electors or native-born citizens"); Takahashi v. Fish & Game Comm'n, 334 U.S. 410 (1948) (limitation of commercial fishing licenses to persons not "ineligible to citizenship"); Sugarman v. Dougall, supra (New York statute relating to permanent positions in the "competitive class" of the state civil service); In re Griffiths, 413 U.S. 717 (1973) (the practice of law); Nelson v. Miranda, 413 U.S. 902 (1973), summarily aff'g 351 F.Supp. 735 (Ariz. 1972) (social service worker
Indeed, the Court has held more than once that state classifications based on alienage are "inherently suspect and subject to close judicial scrutiny." Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 372 (1971). See Examining Board v. Flores de Otero, 426 U. S., at 601-602; In re Griffiths, 413 U. S., at 721; Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U. S., at 642; Nyquist v. Mauclet, 432 U. S., at 7. And "[a]lienage classifications by a State that do not withstand this stringent examination cannot stand." Ibid.
There is thus a line, most recently recognized in Foley v. Connelie, between those employments that a State in its wisdom constitutionally may restrict to United States citizens, on the one hand, and those employments, on the other, that the State may not deny to resident aliens. For me, the present case falls on the Sugarman-Griffiths-Flores de Otero-Mauclet side of that line, rather than on the narrowly isolated Foley side.
We are concerned here with elementary and secondary education in the public schools of New York State. We are not concerned with teaching at the college or graduate levels. It seems constitutionally absurd, to say the least, that in these lower levels of public education a Frenchman may not teach French or, indeed, an Englishwoman may not teach the grammar of the English language. The appellees, to be sure, are resident "aliens" in the technical sense, but there is not a word in the record that either appellee does not have roots in this country or is unqualified in any way, other than the imposed requirement of citizenship, to teach. Both appellee Norwick and appellee Dachinger have been in this country for
But the Court, to the disadvantage of appellees, crosses the line from Griffiths to Foley by saying, ante, at 75, that the "distinction between citizens and aliens, though ordinarily irrelevant to private activity, is fundamental to the definition and government of a State." It then concludes that public school teaching "constitutes a governmental function," ibid., and that public school teachers may be regarded as performing a task that goes "to the heart of representative government." Ante, at 76. The Court speaks of the importance of public schools in the preparation of individuals for participation as citizens, and in the preservation of the values on which
I perceive a number of difficulties along the easy road the Court takes to this conclusion:
First, the New York statutory structure itself refutes the argument. Section 3001 (3), the very statute at issue here, provides for exceptions with respect to alien teachers "employed pursuant to regulations adopted by the commissioner of education permitting such employment." Section 3001-a (McKinney 1970) provides another exception for persons ineligible for United States citizenship because of oversubscribed quotas. Also, New York is unconcerned with any citizenship qualification for teachers in the private schools of the State, even though the record indicates that about 18% of the pupils at the elementary and secondary levels attend private schools. The education of those pupils seems not to be inculcated with something less than what is desirable for citizenship and what the Court calls an influence "crucial to the continued good health of a democracy." Ante, at 79. The State apparently, under § 3001 (3), would not hesitate to employ an alien teacher while he waits to attain citizenship, even though he may fail ever to attain it. And the stark fact that the State permits some aliens to sit on certain local school boards, N. Y. Educ. Law § 2590-c (4) (McKinney Supp. 1978-1979), reveals how shallow and indistinct is New York's line of demarcation between citizenship and noncitizenship. The Court's attempted
Second, the New York statute is all-inclusive in its disqualifying provisions: "No person shall be employed or authorized to teach in the public schools of the state who is . . . [n]ot a citizen." It sweeps indiscriminately. It is "neither narrowly confined nor precise in its application," nor limited to the accomplishment of substantial state interests. Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U. S., at 643. See Note, Aliens' Right to Teach: Political Socialization and the Public Schools, 85 Yale L. J. 90, 109-111 (1975).
Third, the New York classification is irrational. Is it better to employ a poor citizen teacher than an excellent resident alien teacher? Is it preferable to have a citizen who has never seen Spain or a Latin American country teach Spanish to eighth graders and to deny that opportunity to a resident alien who may have lived for 20 years in the culture of Spain or Latin America? The State will know how to select its teachers responsibly, wholly apart from citizenship, and can do so selectively and intelligently.
Fourth, it is logically impossible to differentiate between this case concerning teachers and In re Griffiths concerning attorneys. If a resident alien may not constitutionally be barred from taking a state bar examination and thereby becoming qualified to practice law in the courts of a State, how is one to comprehend why a resident alien may constitutionally be barred from teaching in the elementary and secondary levels of a State's public schools? One may speak proudly of the role model of the teacher, of his ability to mold young minds, of his inculcating force as to national ideals, and of his profound influence in the impartation of our society's values. Are the attributes of an attorney any the less? He represents us in our critical courtroom controversies even when citizenship and loyalty may be questioned. He stands as an officer of every court in which he practices. He is responsible for strict adherence to the announced and implied standards of professional, conduct and to the requirements of evolving ethical codes, and for honesty and integrity in his professional
If an attorney has a constitutional right to take a bar examination and practice law, despite his being a resident alien, it is impossible for me to see why a resident alien, otherwise completely competent and qualified, as these appellees concededly are, is constitutionally disqualified from teaching in the public schools of the great State of New York. The
I respectfully dissent.
"No person shall be employed or authorized to teach in the public schools of the state who is:
"3. Not a citizen. The provisions of this subdivision shall not apply, however, to an alien teacher now or hereafter employed, provided such teacher shall make due application to become a citizen and thereafter within the time prescribed by law shall become a citizen. The provisions of this subdivision shall not apply after July first, nineteen hundred sixty-seven, to an alien teacher employed pursuant to regulations adopted by the commissioner of education permitting such employment." N. Y. Educ. Law § 3001 (3) (McKinney 1970).
The statute contains an exception for persons who are ineligible for United States citizenship solely because of an oversubscribed quota. § 3001-a (McKinney 1970). Because this statutory provision is in all respects narrower than the exception provided by regulation, see n. 2, infra, as a practical matter it has no effect.
The State does not certify the qualifications of teachers in the private schools, although it does require that such teachers be "competent." N. Y. Educ. Law § 3204 (2) (McKinney Supp. 1978-1979). Accordingly, we are not presented with the question of, and express no view as to, the permissibility of a citizenship requirement pertaining to teachers in private schools.
"Citizenship. A teacher who is not a citizen of the United States or who has not declared intention of becoming a citizen may be issued a provisional certificate providing such teacher has the appropriate educational qualifications as defined in the regulations and (1) possesses skills or competencies not readily available among teachers holding citizenship, or (2) is unable to declare intention of becoming a citizen for valid statutory reasons." 8 N. Y. C. R. R. § 80.2 (i) (1978).
"Lawyers do indeed occupy professional positions of responsibility and influence that impose on them duties correlative with their vital right of access to the courts. Moreover, by virtue of their professional aptitudes and natural interests, lawyers have been leaders in government throughout the history of our country. Yet, they are not officials of government by virtue of being lawyers." 413 U. S., at 729.
Although private schools also are bound by most of these requirements, the State has a stronger interest in ensuring that the schools it most directly controls, and for which it bears the cost, are as effective as possible in teaching these courses.
Appellee Dachinger is a cum laude graduate, with a major in German, of Lehman College, a unit of the City University of New York, and possesses a master's degree in Early Childhood Education from that institution. She has taught at a day-care center in the Bronx.
Each appellee, thus, has received and excelled in educational training the State of New York itself offers.
"Connecticut has wide freedom to gauge on a case-by-case basis the fitness of an applicant to practice law. Connecticut can, and does, require appropriate training and familiarity with Connecticut law. Apart from such tests of competence, it requires a new lawyer to take both an `attorney's oath' to perform his functions faithfully and honestly and a `commissioner's oath' to `support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the state of Connecticut.' Appellant has indicated her willingness and ability to subscribe to the substance of both oaths, and Connecticut may quite properly conduct a character investigation to insure in any given case `that an applicant is not one who "swears to an oath pro forma while declaring or manifesting his disagreement with or indifference to the oath." Bond v. Floyd, 385 U.S. 116, 132.' Law Students Research Council v. Wadmond, 401 U. S., at 164. Moreover, once admitted to the bar, lawyers are subject to continuing scrutiny by the organized bar and the courts. In addition to discipline for unprofessional conduct, the range of post-admission sanctions extends from judgments for contempt to criminal prosecutions and disbarment. In sum, the Committee simply has not established that it must exclude all aliens from the practice of law in order to vindicate its undoubted interest in high professional standards." 413 U. S., at 725-727 (footnotes omitted).
"Yet, they are not officials of government by virtue of being lawyers. Nor does the status of holding a license to practice law place one so close to the core of the political process as to make him a formulator of government policy." 413 U. S., at 729.