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

By Michael Paris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
EGALITARIANISM
MADE LEGAL:
FROM ROBINSON
TO ABBOTT

TO STUDY LEGAL MOBILIZATION IS TO STUDY THE SELFunderstandings of particular actors, with particular values and goals, acting in particular social and political contexts.

The key New Jersey school finance reformers were postwar racial liberals. While their parents had known economic depression and total war, they knew material abundance and the heady days of the civil rights movement. They had imbibed not only the optimistic spirit of that age—the hope that the American dream of freedom and prosperity could be extended to those who had always been excluded by racism and poverty—but also the conviction that law and courts could be the engines of social change. After all, had it not been Brown v. Board of Education and the activism of the Warren Court that had poked and prodded a sluggish nation to eradicate a virtual apartheid system within its borders?

When these reformers' acted, they acted in “the quintessential postwar suburban state.”1 As they surveyed New Jersey's social geography in the late 1960s, what they saw deeply disturbed them. What they saw was a hardening of lines separating people by race and class. Increasingly, and quite contrary to the great postwar promise of greater inclusion, they saw that rich and poor,

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