Segregation in New Jersey Schools Background
The Biblical Imperative to Address Issues of Justice
…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. – Luke 4:18-19
As United Methodist, we believe that;
…every person has the right to education and… that the responsibility for education of the young rests with the family, faith communities and the government” and that “in society this function can best be fulfilled through public policies that ensure access for all persons to free public elementary and secondary schools and to post-secondary schools of their choice
We are called to address with prayerful determination the issues of race and class that threaten public education in America.
Segregation in New Jersey Schools
- Although New Jersey is an extremely diverse state, segregation by race, ethnicity and class in New Jersey’s public schools is among the worst in the United States of America. Segregation by race, ethnicity and class in New Jersey’s public schools harms our state’s students.
- The State of New Jersey has created and followed laws, policies and practices that require, with very limited exceptions, students to attend public schools in the municipalities where they live, and other longstanding state practices that knowingly have fostered and enabled residential segregation that deny an alarming number of Black and Latino students, the benefits of a thorough and efficient education and the possibility to develop to their full God-given potential.
- This type of segregation of students was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court 64 years ago in Brown v. Board of Ed. of Topeka, which held that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” in that they “deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities.”
- Evidence-based research shows that all students derive significant educational benefits not only from being educated in a racially and ethnically diverse setting but also from exposure to a multiplicity of viewpoints, and correspondingly, experience more limited growth when exposed to comparatively homogenous views.
Causes of Segregation in New Jersey
- Segregation in New Jersey’s public schools is the inevitable consequence of two mutually compounding factors: residential segregation, and state law assigning students to public schools by residency.
- The segregative impact of these intersecting factors and State laws, policies, and practices is evident from analysis of the racial and socioeconomic demographics of eight of New Jersey’s twenty-one counties–Essex, Hudson, Union, Passaic, Middlesex, Camden, Mercer and Monmouth–all or substantially all of which have districts in which the public schools were intensely segregated (over 90% non-White) by race, and which overwhelmingly enroll students living in poverty.
Numbers that Matter
- Approximately 58,900 Black students in New Jersey attend public schools that are over 99% non-White. This constitutes about 27% of the approximately 215,000 Black public school students statewide.
- A further 46,768 Black students, or 21.7% of the total, attend public schools in which the percentage of Black and Latino students exceeds 90%.
- And in the aggregate, 131,378 Black students, or about 61%, attend schools that are 80% or more non-White, while the number of Black students attending schools that are more than 75% non-White is 140,882 or about 65.5%.
- Of the approximately 360,000 Latino students in the New Jersey public school system, 52,639 (about 14.5%) attend schools that are at least 99% non-White, while 98,906 (about 27.5%) attend schools where the non-White enrollment is 90% or higher.
- In the aggregate, 209,557 Latino students (about 58%) attend schools that are more than 80% non-White, and 221,698 Latino students (about 61%) attend schools that are more than 75% non-White.
- This pattern is worsening: the number of New Jersey public school students who attend schools that are at least 99% non-White has increased from 93,614 in the 2010-11 school year to 113,169 in 2015-16.
Feasible Solutions to Segregation in Schools
Analysis of the experience of other communities throughout the nation shows that three primary remediation methodologies are feasible in New Jersey and likely to successfully result in a more racially and socioeconomically diverse public-school system:
- Inter-district desegregation transfer plans;
- Inter-district enrollment in themed magnet schools; and
- Regional controlled choice.
What relief is being requested in the complaint?
- Declare New Jersey’s longstanding and intensive segregation of Black and Latino public-school students to be unlawful and violative of the New Jersey Constitution.
- Declare that N.J.S.A. 18A:38-1, which essentially mandates that New Jersey school children attend public schools in the municipality in which they reside, is unlawful and violative of the New Jersey Constitution.
- Declare that N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-8 and N.J.A.C. 6A:11-2.1(l), and, which mandate that charter schools prioritize enrollment of students from the district in which they reside, is unlawful and violative of the New Jersey Constitution.
- Enjoin the continued assignment of public school students, including those attending charter schools, on the basis of municipal attendance boundaries and mandate that the Legislature, Commissioner of Education and the State Department of Education adopt a replacement assignment methodology that will in a timely manner address and remediate racial segregation in New Jersey’s public schools, including in charter schools.
- Order that the Commissioner of Education prepare and submit to the Court within three months a detailed and comprehensive statewide remediation plan designed to achieve substantial desegregation and diversification of New Jersey’s public schools as promptly as practicable.
Who is NJCDIS?
The New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools, Inc. (NJCDIS) is a non‐profit corporation organized under New Jersey law whose members are dedicated to redressing the intense racial and economic segregation in New Jersey public schools. Bishop John Schol is a Board Member. The Trustees of the Coalition are guided by the following principles:
- Children have better educational experiences when they learn in an inclusive environment alongside students from different racial, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.
- New Jersey’s highly segregated schools violate the New Jersey Constitution, which prohibits racial segregation in education, regardless of the reasons for or the causes of that segregation.
- We seek to achieve integrated education in New Jersey by adopting an evidence‐based plan that emphasizes the creation of high‐performing magnet schools, expands public school options and strengthens our existing public schools.
- We are building on New Jersey’s proud legacy as a civil rights leader. Integrating our public schools will strengthen our democracy and our economy and will help us build a workforce that competes in the global economy.
- Our integration plan is supported by a broad‐based group of community, civil rights, political, education and faith leaders who are all committed to making New Jersey a stronger state that provides educational opportunities for all children.
What are the costs to GNJ associated with the complaint?
Minimal. NJCDIS, one of the partner organizations in the complaint, has agreed to bear responsibility for all filing fees, disbursements, discovery expenses, expert fees and reimbursement for expert expenses and GNJ will have no obligation for those or any other costs of the litigation. We are estimating $1,500 for expenses associated with supporting the legislation, materials, travel, etc.
What legal fees will GNJ have to pay to be part of the complaint?
None. All legal services associated with the complaint will be provided by reputable law firms on a pro bono basis. GNJ will not be required to make any payment for legal services.