Other People's Children: The Battle for Justice and Equality in New Jersey's Schools

By Deborah Yaffe | Go to book overview

1
Jersey City’s Tax War

For Christmas 1967, Betty Robinson’s seven children got just one present among them. Betty had announced that gifts would go only to those kids who brought home good report cards, and that year, only her fifth child, nine-year-old Kenneth, qualified. He got a green bicycle, and the others, from fourteen-year-old Patricia down to baby Lydia, got nothing. Still, Kenneth let his brothers and sisters take turns riding his new bike along the dirt paths that ran between the three-story brick boxes of the Booker T. Washington Apartments in Jersey City, across the Hudson River from Manhattan’s skyscrapers. The welfare mothers and working families of the Booker T. housing project, virtually all of them African American, lived in the shadow of the elevated New Jersey Turnpike extension, in one of the poorest neighborhoods of a city whose glory days seemed long behind it, and even in that hard-pressed community the Robinsons felt poor. Other project families had cars, but the Robinsons did not. Betty sometimes wept with anxiety over how she would feed her family, and the kids at school teased twelve-year-old Larry about the holes in his shoes. Years after that Spartan Christmas, Larry wondered if the report-card story was just his mom’s way of covering up the fact that she couldn’t afford presents for all of them.

When Ernestine Rock left little Eadytown, South Carolina, to start a new life in the North in the years after World War II, she also left her name behind. From then on, she called herself by her middle name, Betty. She had never liked the hard work that life on her grandmother’s farm entailed: when it

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Other People's Children: The Battle for Justice and Equality in New Jersey's Schools
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface and Acknowledgments ix
  • The Plaintiffs and Their Families xiii
  • Introduction- The Inheritance 1
  • Part One - The Beginning Robinson V. Cahill, 1970–1976 7
  • 1 - Jersey City''s Tax War 9
  • 2 - Celebrating the Bicentennial 31
  • Part Two - The Crusade Abbott V. Burke, 1979–1998 57
  • 3 - The True Believer 59
  • 4 - Son of Robinson 86
  • 5 - The Families 110
  • 6 - "the System Is Broken" 145
  • 7 - The Twenty-One/Forty-One Rule 176
  • 8 - The Children of Abbott 214
  • 9 - A Constitutional Right to Astroturf 249
  • Part Three - The Never-Ending Story Implementing Abbott, 1998–2006 279
  • 10 - "We Do Not Run School Systems" 281
  • 11 - The Children Grow Up 304
  • Conclusion - Other People''s Children 322
  • Notes 335
  • Works Cited 351
  • Index 363
  • About the Author 371
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