Education Law Center (ELC) fully supports the lawsuit filed today challenging the intense racial and socio-economic isolation of students in New Jersey’s public school system.
New Jersey’s schools are among the most de facto segregated in the nation, marked by extreme isolation of students of color and white students, along with low-income students, in far too many of the state’s public schools. Our state’s history of circumscribing school districts by municipal boundaries, along with decades-old patterns of residential segregation, are the leading factors contributing to this situation.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has interpreted the constitutional guarantee of a thorough and efficient education to require the State to both provide adequate funding and resources for all schools – including high poverty, racially isolated schools – and remedy racial imbalance in our public schools.
These are twin and complementary constitutional obligations necessary to ensure every child receives an education in schools that are not only sufficiently funded, but also diverse and inclusive.
ELC has worked tirelessly for over 40 years, most notably through the landmark Abbott v. Burke litigation, to make certain students in the state’s poorer urban school districts have the same opportunities for academic success as their peers in more well-off communities. New Jersey has made enormous progress on that front through high quality preschool for three- and four-year-olds, adequate K-12 funding, and school building improvements. And, most importantly, these powerful Abbott remedies have yielded sustained academic gains for students in our urban schools.
But the State can and must do more.
This lawsuit will complement and advance the progress made through the Abbott remedies to give all children the opportunity to attend schools that are not only well resourced, but more racially and socio-economically diverse. As our Supreme Court said in In re North Haledon Sch. Dist., 181 N.J. 161, 177 (2004), when reaffirming almost forty years of its own legal precedent: “Students attending racially imbalanced schools are denied the benefits that come from learning and associating with students from different backgrounds, races, and cultures.”
I am proud to serve as a member of the board of the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools that is spearheading this litigation. I also applaud the truly remarkable leadership of Justice Gary Stein, an esteemed member of the ELC Board of Trustees, and the incredibly talented legal team representing the plaintiffs in this case. I especially thank Justice Stein for his insistence that this difficult and seemingly intractable issue be addressed in the courts.
ELC also applauds the plaintiffs in this lawsuit – the students and families and the outstanding civil rights organizations – for taking a stand on an issue so vital to the future of the Garden State. ELC will continue to support and assist this effort for the benefit all of our public school children.
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications