The 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board ruling ending legal segregation in public schools puts the spotlight on a troubling reality: New Jersey’s K-12 public schools remain among the most segregated in the nation. The Brown anniversary is also a reminder that New Jersey’s urban districts covered by the State Supreme Court’s Abbott v. Burke rulings are predominately African-American, Latino and low income.

“Our public schools are as segregated as they were decades ago,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and Abbott counsel. “And most minority and low income students continue to be educated in the Abbott districts, which is why State leaders must fully support the Abbott reforms.”

Recent enrollment data show:

  • Over half of African American and Latino students are enrolled in the Abbott districts, even though these districts serve only one-fifth of total statewide enrollment (286,000 of 1.4 million students)
  • 83.6% of all Abbott students are African American and Latino, and half of the Abbott districts have minority enrollments of over 90%
  • Low income students make up only 27% of the statewide enrollment but 70% of the students in Abbott districts

These data underscore the lack of any progress in ending the isolation of minority and low income students in our public schools. They also show how much these students depend upon the commitment of our state’s leaders to vigorously carry out the improvements ordered in the landmark Abbott case.

“As we commemorate Brown, New Jersey has little to celebrate on integrating public schools,” Mr. Sciarra stated. “We can celebrate Abbott, however, which makes our state a national model in educating students in high minority/high poverty schools.”

Because of Abbott, New Jersey is the only state that has ended the wide gap in funding between high poverty/urban schools and more affluent/suburban schools. And Abbott is the first court ruling to require rigorous, standards-based curriculum; universal, high quality preschool; full state financing of facilities; and school-by-school reform to improve instruction and student achievement.

This is why Abbott is considered “the most important equal education ruling since Brown” (NY Times, April 30, 2002).

Mr. Sciarra called on all State leaders — Democrat and Republican — to fully support the Abbott remedies. He also called on Governor James McGreevey to renew his pledge made in Executive Order #6 (2002) to lead a strong collaboration on Abbott implementation between the Education Commissioner, Attorney General, Abbott districts, ELC and other stakeholders.

Mr. Sciarra said, “Now more than ever, we need Governor McGreevey to lead a cooperative effort by all parties to implement Abbott, and to do everything possible to resolve disputes out of court, as called for in his 2002 Executive Order.”

Share this post:

Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240