In New Jersey, 26 percent of black students and almost 13 percent of Latino students attend “apartheid” public schools where less than 1 percent of enrollment is white, according to a recent Rutgers University report.
“New Jersey’s Apartheid and Intensely Segregated Urban Schools” closely examines the “extreme segregation of many urban communities and their schools by race, ethnicity and poverty.”
The report found 8 percent of New Jersey schools qualify for its definition of “apartheid” schools. The Garden State has the strongest state law requiring racial balance in schools, coauthor Paul Tractenberg said.
“Retaining New Jersey’s current crazy quilt of far too many undersized school districts and trying to promote racial balance by getting students to cross district lines is, as a practical matter, likely to be a limited remedy,” said Tractenberg, a Rutgers law professor. “Reorganizing our district structure, with racial balance as one of the goals, seems to me to be much more promising.”
Redistricting can create educational and fiscal efficiencies, he said, predicting “short-term increases in cost as the restructuring proceeds, but some longer-term cost savings once the growing pains have passed.”
Overall savings for redistricting are usually between 5 and 10 percent per year, he said. With New Jersey spending approximately $24.5 billion on education each year, and among the nation’s highest per-pupil spending, “that’s hardly trivial, but it probably isn’t an immediate game changer,” Tractenberg said.
Educational racial segregation in communities with a high minority makeup is the “inevitable result of assigning students to schools based on where they live,” said Greg Forster, a senior fellow at the Freidman Foundation for Educational Choice.
Although Forster agrees extreme segregation reduces education effectiveness, he said consolidating school districts will only place a larger financial burden on the state while handing over more control of education to the government.
“As more and more decisions get made by distant and insulated bureaucrats, the system just gets bloated and inefficient,” Forster said, noting the number of school districts in the country has shrunk to just 13,500 from 110,000 in 1940.
“Academic results have not budged an inch, but we are spending many times more per student on bloat,” Forster said. “Consolidation doesn’t need to be accelerated; it needs to be halted and reversed.”
School Choice Solution
Forster advocates school choice as the solution to racial segregation. He says high-quality research shows school choice alleviates segregation while increasing academic quality. Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Sen. Cory Booker repeatedly advocate vouchers in New Jersey.
Creating larger school districts reduces competition among them, which degrades district quality, Forster said.
The report also sets arbitrary limits for success within districts by relying heavily on racial statistics within the districts without considering the racial makeup of surrounding communities as a whole, Forster said.
“New Jersey’s Apartheid and Intensely Segregated Urban Schools,” Rutgers University, October 2013:http://heartland.org/policy-documents/new-jerseys-apartheid-and-intensely-segregated-urban-schools.
Image by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.