Color of Law Public Policy Forum and Richard Rothstein Make Case for Closing Achievement Gap and Ending School Segregation
Current Chair of the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools, Gary Stein, is leading a lawsuit against the state of New Jersey to desegregate schools.
On May 18, 2018 NJ Spotlight reported, “Because New Jersey is among the most residentially segregated states, the suit argues that students should not automatically go to school where they live. Instead, it suggests students be allowed to choose where to attend classes from a host of options that include magnet schools centered on an educational theme; an inter-district system allowing them to cross town borders’ or a controlled-choice schemed that could place them involuntarily in a school to ensure racially diversity.”
It will take years for this lawsuit to reach the Supreme Court and deem the public-school enrollment residency requirement unconstitutional. However, it is likely that Murphy and his administration may settle on this issue before it reaches the courts.
The Public Policy Forum “The Color of Law”, organized by Monarch Housing Associates, explored many of the connections between educational inequality and housing segregation. Richard Rothstein, the author of The Color of Law, said that “When students attend segregated urban schools, it is hard for them to succeed. Students are coming in sleepy or losing class days because they have asthma, or they may have lead poisoning, or they may be stressed because of violence, or because their parents are unhappy.”
NJ schools are even more segregated than those in the South. Approximately 270,000 black and Hispanic students (about half of the population of these students in NJ), attend schools that are more than 90 percent nonwhite. And about two-thirds of these students attend schools that are more than 75 percent nonwhite, according to NJ Spotlight.
“The numbers here are staggering,” said Ryan Haygood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and a member of the coalition. He shared another data point to prove the problem, saying that in the 20 years his wife has taught in three different schools in Newark, she has never once had a white student. “New Jersey has been complicit … No amount of good will can accomplish what is needed.”
Segregation does not only hurt students of color, but prevents white students from receiving “an educational experience that prepares them to function as adults in a racially and socioeconomically diverse society.” In fact, charter schools exacerbate these issues, further embedding racial and economic segregation into NJ schools.
The #ColorofLawNJ Public Policy Forum reflected how there is hope for legislation to be changed to make education and housing more inclusive. The lawsuit arguing for the end of school segregation was filed on the 64th anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education decision, demonstrating how there is still so much work to be done, even after 64 years.