The schooling process represents one of the most influential agencies of socialization in the lives of children and youths. Yet, as adults, few of us realize the enormous size of this “big business.” Formal education employs more people than any other business in the United States (Brimley & Garfield, 2005) and is very costly. Expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools totaled $472.3 billion in fiscal year 20032004 (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 2006). The cost of education is also escalating due to, for example, increasing enrollment, inflation, and the high cost of energy (Brimley & Garfield, 2005). Thus, a major concern is the need to finance the nation's public elementary and secondary schools at an adequate level. The task of disbursing available funds in a fair manner to schools and to students, without regard to their location within the bounds of a state, is equally arduous and significant. “This is the principle of equity, or fairness” (Brimley & Garfield, 2005, p. 61).1 The legal struggle for financing education equitably for high-enrollment Mexican American schools is the subject of this chapter.
Since the beginning of public education in the Southwest, Mexican American students have been shortchanged in the funding of their schools.2 Reynolds (1933), in a regional study (The Education of SpanishSpeaking Children in Five Southwestern States) sponsored by the Office of Education of the Department of the Interior, reported, “Teaching materials adequate in amount and of the right kind for Mexican children are conspicuously absent” (p. 13). These historical financing inequities can be attributed, for the most part, to the rise of segregation between 1930 and 1960 (San Miguel & Valencia, 1998). A number of scholars have documented the financial neglect of Mexican American segregated schools during the pre- and post-World War II years (see, e.g., Calderón, 1950; García, 1979; Gilbert, 1947; also, see San Miguel & Valencia, 1998). For example, in 1934 the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) issued a report on the condition of schools in the West Side barrio of San