This is a work of nonfiction that draws on tens of thousands of pages of archival materials, legal documents, and published sources, and on interviews with nearly 200 individuals. I base descriptions of conversations on the account of at least one of the participants; I base descriptions of an individual’s thoughts or feelings either on my interview with the person concerned or, occasionally, on accounts given to me by friends or colleagues. In almost every case, I have used the real names of the people whose stories I tell, although I have sometimes omitted the last names of individuals peripherally connected to the narrative. There is only one exception to this rule. In the Abbott lawsuit, the Education Law Center identified Blanca’s children by her maiden name—Figueroa—rather than by their legal surnames, and because of the uniquely painful circumstances of their lives, I have retained this usage.
This book is about a struggle over the fair provision of public services, and I could not have written it without the help of several public institutions. The National Endowment for the Humanities provided initial funding for the project, and in my research I drew on the resources of the Jersey City and Milwaukee public libraries, the New Jersey State Archives, the New Jersey State Library, and the Rutgers University Libraries.
I owe a special debt to the Education Law Center (ELC) and its executive director, David Sciarra, who gave me free and unconditional access to his organization’s files. At ELC, Sciarra, Steven Block, and Paul Tractenberg uncomplainingly endured many hours of interviews, Elizabeth Athos researched a last-minute question, and Danielle Baynes handled myriad logistical matters.