Since Brown v. Board of Education and the desegregation battles of the 1960s and 1970s, the legal pursuit of educational opportunity in the United States has been framed largely around race. But for nearly thirty years now, a less-noticed but controversial legal campaign has been afoot to equalize or improve the resources of poorly funded schools. This book examines both the consequences of efforts to use state constitutional provisions to reduce the "resource segregation" of American schools and the politics of the opposition to these decisions.
On Equal Terms compares the relative success of school finance lawsuits to the project of school desegregation and explores how race and class present sharply different obstacles to courts. Since a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that effectively deferred to the states in the matter of educational equity, about a third of state judiciaries have mandated reform of state-level educational funding systems. Douglas Reed analyzes both the rhetoric of reform and the varying effects of these controversial decisions while critiquing the courts' failure to more clearly define educational equity.
Well-written with keen insight throughout, the book concludes with an intriguing policy proposal that acknowledges obstacles to such efforts. This proposal aims to enhance education by fostering racial and economic integration locally. Setting the stage for a more coherent debate on this controversial issue and expanding our understanding of constitutional design, On Equal Terms will have far-reaching implications for law, public policy, politics, and not least, the future of American education.
"Ambitious. . . . An important contribution to our knowledge of politics, the quandaries, and the outcomes of school finance litigation."--Timothy J. O'Neill, Law and Politics Book Review
"Reed puts a human face of educational reform and clearly demonstrates that the struggle is neither for the fainthearted nor for the impatient. . . . A 'must read.'"--Frederick J. Brigham, American School Board Journal
"This is a bold, expansive book addressing a critical set of issues found at the vortex of law and policy in general and state constitutionalism and school finance reform in particular. It is an important and timely work."--Michael Heise, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
"On Equal Terms is terrific. It is an intriguing, well-written, multifaceted analysis of an issue that deeply affects many Americans but has hardly been addressed by social scientists. It contains great substantive richness, methodological diversity, and theoretical depth."--Jennifer Hochschild, Princeton University, author of Facing Up to the American Dream (Princeton)
Table of Contents:
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS lx
PART I RACE, CLASS, AND EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY
CHAPTER 1. Courts and Educational Opportunity: The Movement from Race to Class 3
CHAPTER 2. The Judicial Impact on School Finance Reform 15
CHAPTER 3. Race, Class, and the Limits of Justice 36
PART II THE CONSTITUTIONAL ORDERING OF EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY
CHAPTER 4. How Does a Constitution Mean? Constitutional Ordering and the Lessons of Educational Opportunity 53
CHAPTER 5. A Bounded Ambition: The Judicial Ordering of Educational Opportunity 65
CHAPTER 6. The Public's Opinion: Understanding Public Commitments toward Educational Opportunity 92
CHAPTER 7. Regimes of Inequality: The Organization of Educational Politics 125
CHAPTER 8. Conclusion: Constituting Education in America 163