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Courts and Kids

Pursuing Educational Equity through the State Courts

Courts and Kids

Pursuing Educational Equity through the State Courts

Over the past thirty-five years, federal courts have dramatically retreated from actively promoting school desegregation. In the meantime, state courts have taken up the mantle of promoting the vision of educational equity originally articulated in Brown v. Board of Education. Courts and Kids is the first detailed analysis of why the state courts have taken on this active role and how successful their efforts have been.

Since 1973, litigants have challenged the constitutionality of education finance systems in forty-five states on the grounds that they deprive many poor and minority students of adequate access to a sound education. While the plaintiffs have won in the majority of these cases, the decisions are often branded “judicial activism”—a stigma that has reduced their impact. To counter the charge, Michael A. Rebell persuasively defends the courts’ authority and responsibility to pursue the goal of educational equity. He envisions their ideal role as supervisory, and in Courts and Kids he offers innovative recommendations on how the courts can collaborate with the executive and legislative branches to create a truly democratic educational system.

Download the 2019 supplementary materials (PDF format) for the book.

208 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Education: Education--Economics, Law, Politics

Law and Legal Studies: The Constitution and the Courts

Political Science: Public Policy


“Mr. Rebell has a brilliant legal mind and a tremendous heart for children, particularly those who have been poorly served by public education. He challenges all of us to think differently, and to do so with a sense of urgency, because our children cannot wait.”

Arne Duncan, former CEO, Chicago Public Schools

Courts and Kids is an original and useful contribution to the debate over courts and education reform. Writing with the knowledge and experience of someone who has participated in these cases, Rebell provides a detailed outline for what courts should do and how they should do it, and he offers a vigorous defense of court involvement and of school finance litigation in general.  At a time when many are questioning the efficacy of litigation to spark social change, Rebell’s defense of school finance litigation is a refreshing and provocative counterweight.”

James E. Ryan, William L. Matheson & Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia

“Having devoted his professional life to the pursuit of educational equity through court litigation, Michael Rebell speaks with a special authority about how the long battle has been waged and what its fruits have been. One need not agree with him on all points—and I don’t—to learn from his almost four decades on the barricades battling for greater court-mandated opportunities for school kids. His book provides a vivid brain scan of how a fine activist lawyer thinks about an urgent social problem.”

Peter H. Schuck, Simeon E. Baldwin Professor of Law, Yale University

"Rebell advances an interesting conceptual model for progressive efforts toward achieving equal educational opportunity in US schools. . . . Given that the subject matter of this text is often an issue of contention, readers’ perspectives and ideologies will be challenged and expanded by the book."


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Educational Policy Making and the Courts
Chapter 2: The State Courts’ Active New Role
Chapter 3: Defining Success in Sound Basic Education Litigations
Chapter 4: Crafting Effective Remedies: Comparative Institutional Perspectives
Chapter 5: Implementing Successful Remedies: A Model for Constitutional Compliance
Chapter 6: Confronting the Political Realities
Appendix: A Separation of Powers Dialogue

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