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

By Deborah Yaffe | Go to book overview

5
The Families

In 1970, when Harold Ruvoldt Jr. challenged New Jersey’s school-funding law, he envisioned the ideal plaintiffs and found a close enough approximation in Betty and Kenneth Robinson. For her successor suit, Marilyn Morheuser seems to have been less choosy: although she told one parent that she was seeking families from a cross-section of educational backgrounds and economic circumstances, she does not seem to have matched prospective plaintiffs to a Ruvoldt-style checklist. Legally, the only essential element was that they attend public school in the four cities the Education Law Center had chosen as case studies in urban educational misery.

Unlike Ruvoldt, Morheuser did not seek to represent cities and school districts as well as schoolchildren. There were good legal and strategic reasons for this choice: as Morheuser had argued in seeking to neutralize Newark’s Sharif case, the interests of the adults who ran cities and schools did not always coincide with the interests of children. Furthermore, by representing students, Morheuser could keep at arm’s length the messy corruption and mismanagement allegations that the state was sure to make. But a psychological element may have come into play, as well. Attracted to moral clarity, Morheuser undoubtedly found it deeply satisfying to speak for victimized innocents—for the only people who bore no responsibility for the disastrous state of inner-city education.

Representing schoolchildren had a potential pitfall, however. Given the tortuous history of Robinson v. Cahill, the new case seemed likely to outlast the school days of at least some of the named plaintiffs, and until mid-1983, when the case was officially certified as a class action on behalf

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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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