This evening I attended a retirement tribute for Professor Paul Tractenberg. For forty six years a teacher at Rutgers Law School, he was the founder of the Education Law Center and the architect of the nationwide litigation efforts to use state constitutions to achieve equitable funding for public schools.
An avid long distance bicyclist, he has let no grass grow under his feet. Last year he published a study demonstrating that New Jersey schools are among the most segregated in the country. More segregated than Alabama's. In his book All Eyes are Upon us (Race and olitics from Boston to Brooklyn) historian Jason Sokol has demonstrated that the north gives itself far more credit than is deserved.
Two New Studies Show Alarming Segregation in New Jersey Schools Which May Run Afoul of State Constitution — The Civil Rights Project at UCLA
IELP’s report, New Jersey’s Apartheid and Intensely Segregated Schools: Powerful Evidence of an Inefficient and Unconstitutional State Education System, finds that a greatly disproportionate number of the state’s black and Latino students are isolated in urban school districts that enroll virtually no white students but have a high concentration of poor children. The report finds that often these urban districts are located in close proximity to overwhelmingly white suburban school districts with virtually no poor students. For example, Essex County, a small but densely populated county, has four urban districts comprised mostly of schools with intensely segregated or apartheid enrollments, whereas the county’s 12 white suburban districts enroll almost no black, Latino or poor students. This extreme concentration of poor children of color in poor urban districts, the report says, runs afoul of New Jersey’s constitutional mandate of racially balanced schools, and undermines the school funding equalization achieved by four decades of litigation culminating in Abbott v. Burke.
A Status Quo, based on 1989-2010 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, details the changes in racial and economic class makeup in New Jersey schools from 1989 to 2010 and finds that increasing diversity in the overall population of the state far outpaces school-level diversity by both race and class. Between 1989 and 2010, the proportions of Asian and Latino students in New Jersey schools rose dramatically, from 4% to 9% and 11% to 22%, respectively, while enrollment of white and black students decreased during the same time period, from 66% to 52% and 18% to 16%, respectively.
From 1989-2010 the percentage of white students in urban schools in North and Central Jersey shrunk by half, from roughly 10% to 5% of enrollment. This rate of decline far exceeded the reduced percentage of the white student population throughout this metropolitan area, indicating a “white flight” of students and families from urban schools. Schools in North and Central Jersey have a significantly higher rate of racial isolation for black students than in South Jersey. In 2010, over 30% of black students in North and Central Jersey attended schools with 99%-100% students of color, compared to less than 14% of black students in South Jersey attending such highly segregated schools.
“New Jersey has seen little change in the status quo of segregated schooling over the last 20 years, with an increasingly multiracial population of students entering into racially and socioeconomically isolated schools,” stated Greg Flaxman, Civil Rights Project research associate and lead author of the CRP report.
The CRP report includes a legal analysis and history of New Jersey school segregation by Professor Paul Tractenberg, education law expert at Rutgers University School of Law and author of the new IELP report. Tractenberg highlights proactive New Jersey litigation related to school and residential desegregation, and documents the disconcerting lack of implementation and enforcement on the ground, which ultimately allowed segregated schools to persist. Current evidence of segregation’s educational harms, such as higher dropout rates and less preparation for college, is included in the report.