Sometimes I think I’m too hard (see here and here) on New Jersey’s Education Law Center, that noble organization that bills itself as “one of the most effective advocates for equal educational opportunity and education justice in the United States.” And then I read something like this:
Out of 173 kids getting “free” Pre-K in Hoboken through the BOE, 139 are white. I don’t know if that counts as “lily white,” but it’s pretty damn close. There are five kids who are biracial, nine who are Asian, and 17 who are Hispanic (who of course may be white and in Hoboken are rarely Spanish speaking.).
This data comes from the N.J. Department of Education, courtesy of Jeff Bennett at N.J. Education Aid, and refers to an artifact of N.J.’s school funding inequity which, ironically, stems from N.J.’s school funding equity Court ruling called Abbott v. Burke. Twenty-five years ago Hoboken was a high-needs “Abbott” district deserving of compensatory state aid and services. Now it’s not. But a laggard State Legislature and a recalcitrant Education Law Center have left N.J. taxpayers in the bizarre situation of providing free preschool to non-needy white kids.
(Another peculiarity: if you go to the most recent School Performance Report for Hoboken’s Wallace Elementary School, less than 40% of the student enrollment is white. Why is Abbott preschool enrollment dominated by white kids, who are actually a minority in Hoboken’s public schools?)
In 2013, as Jeff points out, the Jersey Journal reported that “dozens of Hoboken parents who registered their 3- and 4-year-olds for pre-kindergarten in the city’s public school system were surprised to receive a notice in the mail that said their kids have been placed on a waiting list.
“That’s shocking,” said Sharon Krengel, spokeswoman for the Education Law Center in Newark, a group that advocates for school funding and equal educational opportunities for all students.
Shocking, she and the group’s Executive Director David Sciarra say, because by law Hoboken — one of 31 so-called “Abbott” district schools that receive special state funding — must provide pre-K classes to everyone who registers.
“A Supreme Court ruling made it clear there can be no waiting lists,” Sciarra said. “If additional parents want their children to attend pre-school, funding and space must be provided to accommodate the children otherwise their rights to attend the program are being violated.”
Education Law Center, stuck in a local optimum, won’t release its claws from an obsolete school funding system. Shocking.