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Law, Society, and Judicial Politics: State Supreme Courts and the Pursuit of Educational Equity

Bateman, Oliver (2012) Law, Society, and Judicial Politics: State Supreme Courts and the Pursuit of Educational Equity. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Since the late 1970s, state supreme courts have demonstrated an increased willingness to intervene in disputes on a host of issues ranging from defamation to budget deficits. Activists of all stripes now pursue their agendas in the context of what Richard Nixon dubbed the “New Federalism,” and education reform—a function traditionally handled by state and local governments—has occupied much of their attention. While a considerable amount of academic work has focused quite narrowly on either education policy or supreme court decision-making, few scholars have yet examined the intersection between the two; i.e., how have state and federal judges made education policy, and what reasons have they provided to justify their actions. For historians of education, law enters this story only peripherally as they focus on matters such as test scores and physical plant investments. Legal historians analyze the ratio decidendi on which each decision was based, trying to determine whether a particular constitutional clause or juridical argument impelled the result.

However, the complex and evolving relationship between race and class—seemingly indissoluble in the American setting—that plays out in the context of these school funding disputes cannot be captured by a single method of analysis or monocausal explanation. By placing state supreme court decisions on school finance from the late 20th century in the context of constitutional framing and caselaw from the 19th, and weaving together judicial opinions, lawyers’ pleadings, law review articles, and transcripts of interviews with state supreme court justices and appellate lawyers, I hope to produce a detailed history of legal conflicts over school funding that will fill any extant lacunae. As policymakers at the state level attempt to forge more socioeconomically equitable and racially inclusive systems of education, it behooves them to contemplate the haphazard, contentious, and at times fructifying nature of these highly politicized judicial decisions.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Bateman, Oliverolb8@pitt.eduOLB8
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKarsten, Peterpjk2@pitt.eduPJK2
Committee MemberGreenberg, Janellejanelleg@pitt.eduJANELLEG
Committee MemberMuller, Edwardekmuller@pitt.eduEKMULLER
Committee MemberBonneau,
Date: 12 June 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 6 April 2012
Approval Date: 12 June 2012
Submission Date: 11 April 2012
Access Restriction: 3 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 3 years.
Number of Pages: 189
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: law, education, law and society, school finance policy, school finance litigation, state supreme courts, judicial politics, new judicial federalism, legal history, history of education
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2012 18:34
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:57

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