EDITORIAL: Segregation continues its hold on NJ
Settlement must ensure changes are made
Born in this nation of promise and progress, civic and political power are inalienable birthrights that require provision and nurturing. Yet they are placed in the hands of some and beyond reach for others. Institutions of learning are designed to be the grand guardians of democracy, wielding education as a great leveler of inequities. They function as ladders descending down to those born into circumstances beyond their control, ready for their ascension. Yet “our education system routinely fails urban, rural, low-income and minority students,” according to The Civic Mission of Schools.
New Jersey is the United States' sixth most segregated state for Black students and the seventh most segregated for Latinx students, according to a 2017 analysis by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.
Together North Jersey's 2015 Fair Housing & Equity Assessment Report found "significant levels of segregation for Black, Hispanic and Pacific Islander populations." Because of decades of residential segregation, poverty and state laws that require students to attend the schools in their hometowns, rampant de facto racial segregation has taken hold of the state.
"With segregation, with the isolation of the injured and the robbed, comes the concentration of disadvantage. An unsegregated America might see poverty, and all its effects, spread across the country with no particular bias toward skin color. Instead, the concentration of poverty has been paired with a concentration of melanin," said Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic.
The New Jersey constitution prohibits both "de jure" segregation in which there is a formal law requiring segregation and "de facto" segregation, which is segregation by circumstance. Even though the state is unique in this quality, de facto segregation is rampant and requires confrontation.
From the 2010 to 2011 school year and the 2016 to 2017 school year, the number of students attending schools that are at least 99 percent non-white grew. Since 1989, the percentage of New Jersey students attending "apartheid schools," schools where only between 0 and 1 percent of the students are white, has nearly doubled from 4.8 percent to 8.3 percent. Of the 622,359 white students in the state's public schools, "43 percent attend schools that are at least 75 percent white," according to The New York Times.
Change is both needed and beneficial for New Jersey. On the 64th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, Christian Estevez, president of the Latino Action Network, together with approximately a dozen other plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit against the state.
To rectify the damages and remedy the problem plaguing the education of New Jersey children, the lawsuit suggested the creation of magnet schools, which would draw from multiple towns and districts and tax incentives that encourage the establishment of more diverse schools.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) indicated that his administration would settle rather than defend the present pervasiveness of segregation in the state's education system. Yet, both the settlement and the enforcement of reforms went unfollowed by media outlets and the public eye.
Without oversight, claims of progress and reforms can prove to be hollow with time. The children of New Jersey are the state's future and deserve the justice, inclusion and diversity that promotes growth and mobility.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.