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 »

Transformative Leadership Vs The Status Quo

By Art Gallagher

During a conference call with the media after taping the Oprah show on Friday Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Governor Chris Christie and facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg each committed themselves  to transforming Newark’s school system into and symblol of educational excellence that will become an example for the rest of the country.

Booker declared, “Failure is no longer an option,” for Newark’s school children.   He pledged that he was putting everything on the line, including his career, to create a school system based on accountability and results that will give Newark’s children a educational foundation for success.

Christie said that he was committed to each child in Newark receiving a world class education and that the current results of the Newark school system are unacceptable.  He said the three men came together,” because of our belief that education is a civil right and our absolute commitment to each other that we are going overcome whatever obstacles get put in our path to be able to provide a better and brighter day for the children for the City of Newark and hopefully by example, for children who are being failed  by their school systems across America.”

Zuckerberg said he was interested in shining “a really bright spotlight on Newark, to make it an educational hotspot for education across the nation that people can look to see what is possilble.”

The initial response from New Jersey’s political and educational establishments has been petty and cynical. From Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver to Education Law Center’s David Sciarra to Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grasso to Senator Richard Codey, the defenders of the status quo reveal their self interest and that of their constituencies to continue to profit from a failed system that costs New Jersey residents obscene amounts of money and costs Newark’s children their future.

The Republican establishment is complicit with the defenders of the status quo by their silence.  Since Christie’s inauguration in January my inbox has been filled with press releases from Republican leaders voicing their support of each of the Governor’s bold initiatives.  Since word of this initiative leaked out last week….nothing.

The biggest obstacle that Booker and Christie will face in transforming Newark’s school system is cynical resignation. Things in Newark have been so bad for so long that we really believe nothing will make a difference.  That is why nothing does.

If you live in New Jersey the condidtion of Newark and its school system impacts your life, past, present and future.  Suburan bliss may numb the pain, except on the days your property taxes are due.

If Booker, Christie and Zuckerberg fail in their project to transform Newark’s schools, we all fail.

Posted: September 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Cory Booker, Education, Newark | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »