By Tommy DeSeno, Originally published on ricochet
I’m a bit moved today that an issue I’ve been hammering away at by my lonesome for a decade is finally getting some attention.
New Jersey is racially segregated. Some of it is naturally occurring or of personal economic genesis. The birth of that kind of segregation requires no immoral act by mankind, though whether something should or can be done about it I leave for another debate.
Some of New Jersey’s racial segregation is state sponsored. State sponsored racial segregation shouldn’t be, from both moral and economic perspectives. Something must be done about it.
New Jersey has the highest incomes in America, but Camden is the poorest city in America. The only way to have the highest incomes and the poorest city is to have a segregated poor. Some of that segregation might have to do with the way public housing is built. That might be a real issue, but that is not my issue today.
My issue is education, where state sponsored segregation is a certainty in New Jersey. Brown v Board of Education may as well never have happened as far as the racially segregated City of Asbury Park is concerned. That is ironic since Asbury Park has a school named in honor of Thurgood Marshall, who was lead counsel on Brown v Board of Education. Thurgood Marshall and its sister schools in Asbury Park, the High School in particular, are some of the most racially segregated schools in the country.
Let’s talk about how that happened. Asbury Park is home to some of the poorest people in New Jersey, and while it is racially diverse, it is majority Black. It’s only a little bigger than a square mile. It is surrounded by other small towns, some of which rank as the wealthiest in New Jersey. They are super-majority White. They are all tiny towns, too small to have their own High Schools. So for about 100 years, children in all the rich surrounding towns attended Asbury Park High School.
Asbury Park High ran well as a racially and economically diverse school.
In 1996 state action occurred. New Jersey’s Commissioner of Education ruled that 15 miles away, another public school in very wealthy and very white Little Silver, NJ had a better music program than Asbury Park. Therefore, anyone who wanted to study music could be bused past their home school in Asbury Park and go to Little Silver, at taxpayer expense.
Suddenly, an unexplained outbreak of the desire to learn the oboe developed among the White students, who were instantly so musically gifted that they all passed the required audition and were accepted into the other public high school’s music program.
Over the past 15 years, they quietly allowed the rich surrounding towns to peel away from the Asbury Park School District to join districts geographically further away.
That took from Asbury Park it’s economic, cultural and racial diversity. It left Asbury Park with just he lowest income students in the state, who for whatever reason you may wish to ascribe, happen to be Black. To look at the class pictures in Asbury Park, you would think that in 1996 aliens abducted all the white kids, because they just suddenly disappear.
Some may not have a problem with this, but that’s only because I have yet to tell you about the money side. If it is activist courts, social engineering and throwing money at poor schools as a magic elixir that stirs your emotions, behold:
New Jersey had a Supreme Court case called Abbott come down. It stands for this proposition: Poor school districts must be funded to the same level as the richest districts in the state.
Thirty-two of the State’s 500+ school districts are identified as poor “Abbott Districts” and they receive billions of dollars in extra money from the State, because the Supreme Court says they have a “right” to everyone else’s money for being poor.
Asbury Park is one of those “Abbott” districts. It is one of the lowest performing school districts in the state. Its budget? About $90 million yearly. It’s High School graduating class? About 90 students.
However, if we didn’t bus all those kids past the Asbury Park district and brought them back home where they live, Asbury Park would lose it’s “Abbott Designation” and taxpayers would save about $60 million in Abbott funding yearly.
Such an easy fix! Now brace yourself for the ugly side of politics to learn why it isn’t done:
Most of the suburban White people will complain to high heaven about the money Asbury Park gets each year. But ask them if they are willing to send their children back to their geographic home district, and they will say, “On second thought, why don’t you just keep that $60 million.”
The urban Blacks in Asbury Park are just as guilty. While they may claim to abhor racial segregation, ask them to desegregate their school and their answer is, “And lose $60 million? No way!”
The children are caught in the middle. They are racially and economically segregated by state action, and they know it.
Since no one’s hands are clean here, there is no reason to waste time with allegations that this happened because the White towns acted racially or the Black school was greedy. Just fix it for the children, and the taxpayer.
I have been calling on every politician since 1996 to change that awful “music ruling” and bring the White children back to Asbury Park, or close Asbury Park and send the children to the surrounding High Schools, where each school would have to take only 15 students per grade.
I’ve never gained any traction, because no one wants to admit that Abbott funding is “segregation hush money.”
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.
Art notes today that David Sciarra, Director of the Education Law Center who was responsible for bringing those Abbott cases, gave a speech yesterday lamenting the racial segregation he suddenly sees throughout New Jersey schools.
That is huge news. I don’t care if Mr. Sciarra sees racial segregation as his organization’s fault or not. I’m just glad he sees it. He, of course, is on the left. Mr. Gallagher is on the right. For the first time in 30 years, New Jersey’s left and right identified the same problem with education: Segregation.
Art Gallagher has gained enough gravitas through his blog that he has been granted one-on-one interviews with Governor Christie himself.
I hope Art and Mr. Sciarra can get the Governor’s attention to tackle racial segregation in New Jersey schools.