Education Inequality Is Not About Money. Its About Racial Segregation

Want lower property taxes?  Desegregate New Jersey Schools

By Art Gallagher

Finally!  Someone other than our friend Tommy DeSeno is speaking the truth about what is the real source of New Jersey’s highest in the nation property taxes and universally failing urban school districts: State sponsored racial segregation.

That’s right.  The reason our property taxes are so high and the reason urban school districts are falling is that New Jersey spends billions of dollars per year to educate white kids while spending even more, per child, to warehouse black kids and hispanic kids.

We make racial segregation sound virtuous by using terms like “home rule,””school-aid equity,” “thorough and efficient,” and “Abbott.”  Then we go to court and argue over how much money the state should send to Newark, Camden, Asbury Park and the other 27 Abbott Districts.   We don’t talk about the racial makeup of those districts, or we use the exception, Keansburg, to argue that the segregation is not about race….its about economics.

Its about racial segregation.  Liberal Blue Jersey’s schools resemble pre-1963 Alabama schools in their racial makeup.

Tommy DeSeno has been a lone voice on this issue for years.  He has used these pages at MMM for at least three years to tell the truth about New Jersey’s dirty open secret whenever a debate over education funding breaks out.  Read Tommy’s words here and here.  Read the comments.

Here’s a sample from November of 2008 for those of you who don’t want to follow the links:

Now, let’s you and I talk about Abbott Districts.

Asbury Park gets $60 million yearly in Abbott funds. It is per capita the most expensive Abbott in the state.

The district includes rich white towns like Avon, Allenhurst, Interlaken and Deal.

In 1996 they started busing the rich white kids past Asbury up to Red Bank Regional, another public high school about 6 or 7 miles away.

That CREATED Asbury as an Abbott district by segregating just the poorest black kids in the county to one school.

Here is a typical conversation I have with people from the rich towns surrounding Asbury:

RICH WHITE GUY: You know Tom, I resent having to send Asbury $60 million in Abbott funds from my tax money each year.

ME: If you stop busing your kids away and put them back in their home district in Asbury, then Asbury will lose its Abbott designation, and you won’t have to pay it anymore.

RICH WHITE GUY: You know Tom, on second thought, why don’t you just keep that $60 million.

Listen grasshopper, I’m going to teach you a dirty little secret about Abbotts, that the liberal press won’t tell you:

Abbott money in Asbury, is “segregation hush money.” Both sides of it are guilty.

White people will complain about the money, but won’t change anything because they don’t want their kids back in Asbury.

Black people will complain about the segregation, but they won’t change it either, because wasting $60 million a year in other people’s money is just way too much fun!

Meanwhile, Asbury kids are caught in the middle, attending a racially segregated school (and they know it), created by busing white kids away from their home district, as if Brown v Board of Education never happened.

There is a government caused racially segregated school right here where you live, Eric. Just like they had in the segregated south.

Tommy’s words have fallen on deaf ears because even after 30 years of the failed Abbott experiment, we would rather keep pouring money into the failed urban/minority districts and waste generations of minority kids lives than risk the “working” white school districts by regionalizing and desegregating the school districts.  We’d rather find a way to keep our “home rule” and come up with a way to make urban schools work, like charter schools,  rather than desegregate the urban schools with the successful suburban school just next door.  Let’s spend several hundred billion dollars more and waste another generation to see if we can make separate but equal work.

Maybe that will change now. 

The most powerful man in New Jersey over the last 30 years,the man who more than any other caused New Jersey school’s racial segregation, David Sciarra, director of the Education Law Center, seems to have recognised the error of his ways, even if he is not taking responsibility for what his Abbott litigation has produced over the last three decades.

According to liberal Star Ledger columnist Bob Braun Sciarra appeared in New Brunswick this week with NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and James Harris, the head of New Jersey’s NAACP.  He said:

“By any measure, New Jersey has one of the most segregated school systems in the country,” said David Sciarra, director of the Education Law Center, the organization that brought the school aid cases to the state’s highest court.

“We have to reopen that front,” he added. “We have to start to talk about what we need to do to break down district boundaries.”

If Sciarra is serious about making education work for everybody and wants to start talking about breaking down district boundaries he can withdraw his litigation that is keeping those boundaries in place before the State Supreme Court rules that Governor Christie and the legislature needs to flush an additional $1.7 billion into a failed system in the coming fiscal year.

If Sciarra is serious about making education work for everyone, he will stop measuring education equality by dollars spent and work with, rather against, the government to create a system that works.  

I think he would find a willing partner in Governor Chris Christie, who more than any other elected leader in my lifetime has expressed his commitment to quality education for urban children.

It is time for New Jersey to confront the painful truth about our education system.  We can no longer afford to pretend that money is what will make education work.  We can no longer pretend that we are spending billions of dollars per year on something other than racially segregated schools.

Posted: May 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Education | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

5 Comments on “Education Inequality Is Not About Money. Its About Racial Segregation”

  1. Justified Right said at 10:11 am on May 19th, 2011:

    I’m speechless and moved. Thank you Art. I started to think that someday I would die alone on this issue.

    Jim Hogan has shown some interest in the past on this too.

    I hope you can get the discussion started where I failed.

    -Tommy De Seno

  2. ArtGallagher said at 10:21 am on May 19th, 2011:


    You haven’t failed. You keep raising the issue, like Sisyphus pushing the stone up the hill.

    Now that there are prominent voices on the left taking up the issue, we need to keep pushing from the right before greed takes over and they shut up.

  3. Rick Ambrosia said at 10:59 am on May 19th, 2011:

    Yeah…no greedy politicians on the right…just ask Andrew Lucas.

  4. James Hogan said at 12:26 pm on May 19th, 2011:

    Keansburg, my former hometown and where I graduated high school, is an especially sad case, not just some exception.

    Since at least the early/mid 90s, most of the kids were moved from classrooms to “temporary” trailers that litter the school grounds. The kids still show up at the temporary trailersschools 10-15 years later, the teachers still teach something and the administrators still collect $200,000+/yr.

    I’d bet there are parents who went to school in those trailers who now have kids of their own, in those same “temporary” trailers.

    Total Cost Per Student in Keansburg is around $20,000… my understanding is that the Abbott funding formula makes it impossible/illegal for the district to “save” money to construct new schools.

    I’ve asked before and I’ll ask again, how can I be spending $20,000 per student to provide a mediocre at best education to students are consistently below average on every form of testing… and the NJEA, Democrats, and courts defend this, or I accept this?

    I’d bet any of the unemployed teachers out there would be willing to take $100,000/yr to educate 5 kids in their own home, or a private office, or a public library room and the cost to you the taxpayer would be the same. The same teacher would probably do just as well with 10 students and $100,000/yr and the state can keep the other $100,000 for administrative purposes the state can stop collecting another $90,000 and spend $10,000 per 10 students on administrative functions.

    What we have Just Doesn’t Work, and not because we don’t spend enough money, but because no one in the NJEA offices cares what it really costs or takes to educate a child, as long as those teachers pay their union dues and they can rationalize their own existence.

  5. MoreMonmouthMusings » Blog Archive » Racial Segregation In A Northern State. A Challenge To My Governor Christie said at 10:48 pm on May 19th, 2011:

    […] Until today.  I’m delighted that Art Gallagher, who runs New Jersey’s most prolific center-right blog More Monmouth Musings, has taken up the cause. […]