An Open Letter to the People of New Jersey – School Segregation

January 10, 2020 | | GNJ News

Our country may be deeply divided, but in New Jersey civic and community leaders, faith leaders, and civil rights and education advocates are working to create opportunities in the public
schools for students of all different backgrounds to learn to live and work together in harmony.

The State of New Jersey is trying to stop them. Over 370,000 Black and Latinx children in New Jersey (63% of the state total) attend public schools that are segregated by race and by poverty. New Jersey’s public schools are among the most racially segregated in the entire country, more so than many public schools in states of the former Confederacy that were integrated following the U.S. Supreme Court’s groundbreaking 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Unfortunately, the promise of Brown has never been fully realized in New Jersey.

On May 17, 2018—Brown’s 64th anniversary—a coalition of organizations and individuals filed a landmark case, Latino Action Network et al. v. State of New Jersey et al. Segregation in New Jersey is not by choice. Much of it can be traced to government-sponsored policies that decades ago subsidized suburban housing for White people while at the same time refusing to insure mortgages in racially mixed neighborhoods.

These practices spread throughout the real estate industry and were reinforced by exclusionary zoning policies that limited housing opportunities for Black people. This history helps to explain the severe residential segregation that exists in New Jersey today. State law that requires students to attend school based on where they live perpetuates this segregation in the state’s public schools.

This segregation denies students from diverse racial and class backgrounds the chance to learn from each other and to find common ground across their differences. As the New Jersey
Supreme Court has repeatedly held, school segregation also violates the state’s constitution. Indeed, it is the only state constitution in the country that explicitly bans segregation in public

The State is asking a court to dismiss the case—or to add 585 public school districts as parties, which would grind the case to a halt. The State is also demanding that plaintiffs show how
school segregation would be fixed before the court rules that the State is required to fix it. This is like making a pedestrian who has been hit by a car show that his injuries can be healed before
holding the driver responsible for hitting him. A decision in favor of the State would be disastrous.

Extensive social science evidence over many decades documents the numerous educational benefits for children educated in integrated public schools. Research shows that becoming
educated in diverse settings encourages children to think more critically; and it instills social and emotional skills by teaching children to be more empathetic toward people who are different.
All children—Black, Latinx, Asian, Native, and White children alike—benefit from integration.

Recent research focusing specifically on Black children’s educational outcomes at the height of southern school desegregation during the 1970s and 1980s shows significantly higher college
attendance and completion rates, an average 30 percent increase in annual income, and better health outcomes. Indeed, the educational effects of prolonged exposure to school desegregation
during this period were large enough to eliminate the BlackWhite achievement gap, with no adverse effects on the performance of any racial group. When coupled with equitable school
funding and high-quality preschool, integration can dramatically improve educational outcomes that promote lifelong opportunity.

We, the undersigned, are educators, civic leaders, faith leaders, social justice advocates, researchers, and policy experts who are committed to educational equity and fairness. We urge you
to lift up your voices and call Governor Murphy at (609) 292-6000. Tell him that his Administration should work to ensure that the promise of Brown is finally realized in the Garden State.

Action Together NJ
Derek W. Black, Professor of Law, University of South Carolina (institutional affiliation for identification purposes only)
Elise Boddie, The Inclusion Project at Rutgers Law School (institutional affiliation for identification purposes only)
Reverend Dr. Charles F. Boyer, Executive Director, Salvation and Social Justice; Pastor, Bethel AME Church
Professor John C. Brittain, University of the District of Columbia School of Law (institutional affiliation for identification purposes only)
Joan Butcher-Farkas, Co-Chairperson, People for Progress
Carolyn V. Chang, Esquire, Chair of the Social Justice Committee of the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey (ABWL)
Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Cooper River Indivisible
William T. Crawley, III
Reverend Eric Dobson, Director of Community Engagement, Fair Share Housing Center
Matt Dragon, Take Back NJ Steering Committee
Douglas Eakeley, Board Chair, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
Susan Eaton, Author, The Other Boston Busing Story and The Children in Room E-4: American Education on Trial Education Law Center
Christian Estevez, President, Latino Action Network
Walter L. Fields, Jr., Founder & Trustee, Black Parents Workshop, Inc.
Lizzie Foley, Take Back NJ Steering Committee
Reva Foster, Chair, NJBIC, New Jersey Black Issues Convention
Vivian Cox Fraser, President, Urban League of Essex County
Frank Freyre, Director, Latino Coalition of New Jersey; Chair,
Latino Action Network Foundation
Rachel D. Godsil, Professor of Law and Chancellor’s Scholar, Rutgers Law School (institutional affiliation for identification purposes only)
Greater Red Bank NAACP (unit 2103)
V. Elaine Gross, President, ERASE Racism
James Harris, President, New Jersey Association of Black Educators
Jerome Harris, Chairman Emeritus, New Jersey Black Issues Convention
Ryan P. Haygood, President and CEO, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
Hopewell Valley Race and Diversity Discussion Group
Hudson County Progressive Alliance
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
Rucker C. Johnson, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California-Berkeley (institutional affiliation for identification purposes only)
Sandra King, Producer/Anchor, “Due Process”
R.A. Lenhardt, Board Member, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
Larry Leverett, Managing Director, New Jersey Network of Superintendents
Sandra M. Mordecai, Member, Equity Council, New Jersey School Boards Association
NAACP New Jersey State Conference
NAACP Trenton Branch
National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector
National Coalition for School Diversity
New Brunswick Area Branch NAACP
New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center
New York Appleseed
NJ-08 For Progress
Not In Our Town Princeton
Myron Orfield, Professor of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Law; Director, Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity
Dennis Parker, Executive Director, National Center for Law and Economic Justice
People for Progress
Peter Piazza, member, National Coalition for School Diversity
Princeton Progressive Action Group
Thomas Puryear, President of the Oranges & Maplewood NAACP; Education Chairperson, Oranges & Maplewood NAACP
William T. Rogers, III, Esquire, President of the Garden State Bar Association (GSBA)
Richard W. Roper
Julia Sass Rubin, Associate Professor, Rutgers University, and Visiting Associate Professor, Princeton University (institutional affiliations for identification purposes only)
Save Our Schools New Jersey
Rebecca Scheer, Take Back NJ Steering Committee
Bishop John Schol, The United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey
Robt Seda-Schreiber, Chief Activist, Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice
Sheff Movement Coalition
Richard Smith, President, NAACP New Jersey State Conference
SOMA Action
South Jersey Women for Progressive Change
Gregory Stankiewicz, Statewide Coordinator, New Jersey Community Schools Coalition
Philip Tegeler, Poverty & Race Research Action Council
Reverend Timothy L. Adkins-Jones, Senior Pastor, Bethany Baptist Church, Newark, NJ
Paul Tractenberg, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers Law School (institutional affiliation for identification purposes only);
President, Center for Diversity & Equality in Education
Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg
Professor Kevin Welner, Director, National Education Policy Center, School of Education, University of Colorado Boulder (institutional affiliations for identification purposes only)
Kathleen Witcher
Gregg L. Zeff, Esq., NAACP New Jersey and Pennsylvania Legal Redress Chair and Social Justice Project Chair 1
Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (2017). 2
Rucker C. Johnson (with Alexander Nazaryan), Children of the Dream (2019).