“Settling” Brown’s Promise: Seeking More Equal Access to Quality Education Through Settlement


Education is universally acknowledged as fundamentally important. Yet, education advocates have long struggled to bring about effective school reform through both legislative and judicial avenues for a myriad of reasons including budgetary constraints, a lack of consensus regarding what reforms are most effective, and racist perceptions of reform. In recent years, school reform litigation efforts have been met by a judiciary that is increasingly unwilling to even entertain claims of educational harms. But in California, education reform advocates have found success bringing lawsuits that focus on discrete harms to a limited group of students that stem from specific educational resource inadequacies. In these cases, not only has the State been willing to settle, but the negotiated remedy has also been more extensive than that sought in the original complaint. In this Comment, I argue bringing these discrete cases with the intention to settle is the most assured avenue to secure relief in school reform litigation. I also submit that the need for settlement to achieve school reform is alarming as it reflects the increasingly limited opportunities for students of color and low-income students to demand and secure their right to a meaningful education. Consequently, settlement underscores just how far this country has moved away from Brown’s promise of an equal education for all students.

About the Author

J.D. 2022, University of California Los Angeles, School of Law.