It is happening again. Once more, promises — promises backed by law — made to New Jersey’s neediest children have been broken.
This time, it’s school choice — from charters to vouchers. Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to use it to rescue 100,000 “trapped” students in “failing schools.’’
Then he issued a report he said proved charter schools were the answer — but all it did prove was that the charter schools best able to exclude the neediest students got both the highest test scores and, as a consequence, the highest praise from a grateful governor.
Breaking promises predates Christie. And predates charters. Politicians of both parties—abetted by faint-hearted courts—have ensured that promises made remain unkept.
In 1954, the United State Supreme Court ruled separate but equal schools were “inherently unequal” — and inherently inferior. New Jersey long before banned statutory segregation, but both federal and state courts here also banned segregation based on housing patterns.
The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the education commissioner had the power to dissolve district lines to enforce integration. In 1971, when Morris Township officials tried to withdraw their children from Morristown, the court ordered the state to create a unified—and racially integrated—district. Promise made.
The commissioner then—Carl Marburger—insisted that, if integration were to be accomplished, school district lines “would have to be challenged.’’ Plainfield school officials, chafing at an integration order they said was impossible to enforce within the district, sued, demanding regionalization of schools in Union and Middlesex counties to achieve racial balance. School board meetings throughout Central Jersey were packed with panicky parents fearful their children would be bused far from home.
But nothing happened. In cases involving Plainfield, New Brunswick and Englewood, both the state and the courts backed off. School desegregation, and whatever it might have done for school achievement among our poorest children, faded as a solution—and as a reality.
Public schools are more segregated than ever. In Essex County, East Orange schools are 99.8 black and Hispanic. Irvington, 98 percent. Newark, 92 percent. Millburn schools—a short bus ride from these cities—are 98 percent white. New Jersey tolerates racial isolation.
Guys. Lottery numbers. The best we can do for our neediest students is let them play a lotto for a different school environment. Education is not a game. It is not something to gamble with. Let’s make schools better. Let’s think logically.
Guys. Lottery numbers. The best we can do for our neediest students is let them play a lotto for a different school environment. Education is not a game. It is not something to gamble with.
Let’s make schools better. Let’s think logically.