In Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court observed that “education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments” and held that it was a public service that “must be made available to all on equal terms.” While Brown removed one obvious barrier to equal educational opportunities, it left in place another: the obstacle faced by poor school districts that wish to provide an education to their students “on equal terms” relative to the education offered by wealthier school districts within a State.
Nineteen years after Brown, the Court decided another equal-protection case, San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, which gave the Court an opportunity to remove, or at least ameliorate, wealth-based barriers to equal educational opportunities as well. But the Court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims. This Essay explains what happened in Rodriguez, describes what happened in the States in the thirty-five years after Rodriguez and raises some questions prompted by the experience.
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