The Star-Ledger has a series called “Friendly Fire” where two consultants, Democrat Julie Roginsky and Republican Mike Duhaime, discuss policitically charged issues. In the most recent installment the issue they consider is this:
Racial segregation is New Jersey’s public schools is more severe than in Alabama or Mississippi, but the Murphy administration went back to court this week to continue fighting a 2018 lawsuit that would force Trenton to consider remedies. What do you make of a progressive governor taking that stand?
Short version of the back story (for a longer version, see here): Two years ago a cadre of anti-choice folk — former Judge Gary Stein, Education Law Center, NJEA, and Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker –sued New Jersey in a case called Latino Action Network v. NJ. They charge that NJ public schools are extremely segregated (which is true) and the state should be required to implement a variety of remedies, including consolidation of school districts, busing white rich kids to inner-city schools, expanding magnet schools (despite the fact that they are more segregated than the rest of NJ schools), and halting all expansions and approvals of public charter schools because (they falsely claim) charter schools increase segregation.
To the surprise of many, the Murphy Administration just went to court to argue against Latino Action Network, even though the Governor is close allies with all the plaintiffs. Why? Our best guess is this is an election year and Murphy knows the proposed remedies –especially consolidating districts and busing kids in wealthy districts to poorer ones—are politically toxic in a state so smitten with local control. Here’s Roginsky’s and Duhaime’s takes:
Mike: New Jersey has some of the best public schools in the country, and that’s important to voters, so Gov. Murphy will not want anything to happen to destabilize the current system. But while we have some of the best schools, we have a huge gap to the lowest-performing schools in our state, many of which are in communities with high percentages of African-American and Latino students. Gov. Murphy has resisted every education reform, is in lockstep with the teachers union on every issue, and even made it more difficult for charter schools in New Jersey, so why should this be a surprise? Most counties in New Jersey are diverse, but many towns aren’t. Expansion of county magnet schools and other opportunities across municipal lines could provide for better integration and better opportunities without hurting high-performing local schools.
Julie: Education is the key to getting out of poverty. Until we ensure that children of color have the same opportunities for outcomes as white kids, we will never address the racial disparities in our society. Mike is right that most parents in New Jersey are extraordinarily proud of and protective of their local schools but that same principle should apply to all parents, not just to those fortunate enough to live in certain school districts.