Framing Equal Opportunity: Law and the Politics of School Finance Reform

Framing Equal Opportunity: Law and the Politics of School Finance Reform

Framing Equal Opportunity: Law and the Politics of School Finance Reform

Framing Equal Opportunity: Law and the Politics of School Finance Reform

Synopsis

In the struggle to ensure that schools receive their fair share of financial and educational resources, reformers translate policy goals into legal claims in a number of different ways. This enlightening new work uncovers the options reformers have in framing legal challenges and how the choices they make affect politics and policy beyond the courtroom.

Focusing on two of the most controversial and far-reaching court decisions in the nation in school finance and education reform, Framing Equal Opportunity follows lawyers and activists in New Jersey and Kentucky as they negotiate the complicated political terrain of educational change in their respective states. Unlike other books on law and reform, this work emphasizes the importance of legal translation- the process through which reformers transform their visions and goals into plausible legal claims. As it reveals, the kinds of arguments lawyers choose to make matter not only to their success in the courtroom, but also to the nature of the political fights they face in the community at large.

Excerpt

Almost twenty years ago now, Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities offered the nation a disturbing portrait of unequal educational opportunities and stunted lives. Kozol took his readers on a journey through public schools in some of America's most impoverished cities and some of its wealthiest suburbs. In the poor cities, such as Camden, New Jersey, and East St. Louis, Illinois, the children were almost to the last one black or Latino, and most lived in poverty. The schools were old, broken down, and largely bereft of material resources. They were fearful places, places where danger lurked at every turn, and even the walls issued dire warnings about things like drug abuse and teen pregnancy. Many teachers and administrators were worn out and demoralized; they had given up hope. And the children, it seemed, knew what to make of all of this. They got the message: The larger society did not care about their education or their lives. In the wealthy suburbs, such as Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Winnetka, Illinois . . .

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