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

By Deborah Yaffe | Go to book overview

3
The True Believer

By the 1980s, a casual observer might have mistaken Marilyn Morheuser for a picture-perfect grandmother. Short and stout, with graying hair, thick glasses, and sensible shoes, she loved her books and her cats, nurtured a wide windowsill’s worth of luxuriant plants, and spun out her Christmas shopping into an elaborate, months-long project. True, she would have made an irreverent kind of grandma—the kind who chainsmoked, rooted for a sharp-elbowed basketball team, and liked her martinis extra dry, the kind with a hearty appetite for good food, vividly colored scarves, and intense friendships—but irreverent grandmas are their own sort of cliché. Yet it would have been a mistake to see Marilyn Morheuser in such familiar and reassuring terms, for at the core of her personality lay something more complicated: a drive to commit wholly, deeply, irrevocably to a cause larger than self. Three years after the Robin- son case ended, the unfinished fight for school-finance reform in New Jersey became the last of the three great causes to which Morheuser dedicated her life, and she pursued it with a tenacity that bordered on obsession. She was a childless white lawyer in late middle age, but the black and Hispanic schoolchildren of the inner city became her children, and she defended what she saw as their interests with a fierceness that was part maternal passion, part crusading hunger for justice.

Marilyn Jeanne Morheuser was born in St. Louis on May 31, 1924, the second of three children of Marie Werthe, a former bank teller, and Martin Morheuser, an insurance agent of German descent. In August 1928,

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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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