Hope for Children Trapped in Failing Schools: The Promise of Crawford v. Davy
On October 4, 2007, a trial level court in New Jersey dismissed Crawford v. Davy, a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 60,000 schoolchildren throughout the state seeking the court's authority to leave schools that fail to educate their students. By filing suit, plaintiff schoolchildren had hoped to be transferred to an alternative successful public or private school utilizing their pro rata share of state and local school funds to subsidize the transfer. Now, the dismissal of Crawford consigns these children to poor inadequate neighborhood schools indefinitely. If the dismissal of Crawford v. Davy is not reversed on appeal, it will not only extinguish the hope of plaintiff schoolchildren to receive an equal and adequate educational opportunity, but could threaten the right of a thorough and efficient education guaranteed by the State Constitution and reverse gains achieved over the past 40 years in New Jersey's education jurisprudence. This article places Crawford in the context of the state's enduring legal struggle to equalize educational opportunities and discusses its claims and purposes in relation to that history. The article then addresses the significance of the Crawford dismissal on the state's legal precedents, especially rulings in the on-going Abbott v. Burke equity funding litigation. Finally, the article concludes with a prediction of the impact that Crawford's dismissal may pose for the larger equity/adequacy litigation movement playing out across the country. For the moment, the hope of 60,000 plaintiff schoolchildren is diminished. Only time and New Jersey's appellate courts will dictate whether their hope for an equal and adequate education shall survive.