Would establish Division on School Desegregation to assess racial/socioeconomic conditions, develop strategic plan to support equal opportunities for all students
Trenton – The Senate Education Committee today approved a bill authored by Senator Joe Cryan that would promote educational equity in New Jersey’s public schools by closing racial and socioeconomic divides so that students in all communities are offered equal opportunities for a quality education.
“New Jersey’s diversity is an important part of our social, economic and educational strength,” said Senator Cryan. “We have one of the best educational systems in the country, but we also have some of the most segregated schools, which undermines our ability to provide equal opportunities for students in all of our communities. We know that school integration promotes more equitable access to resources.”
The bill, S-820, would establish the Division of School Desegregation in the Department of Education, making it responsible for identifying instances of de facto racial and socioeconomic segregation and for finding ways to ensure a diverse enrollment in the state’s public schools.
Providing more students with integrated school environments is a cost-effective strategy for boosting academic achievement and preparing young people for work in a diverse global economy, Senator Cryan noted.
One study found that reducing socioeconomic segregation in schools by 50 percent would produce a return on investment of 3 to 5 times the cost of the programs, and another found that children who attended integrated schools had higher earnings as adults, improved health outcomes and were less likely to be incarcerated.
“If we want to maximize the value of investing in our schools, we have to strive to ensure educational equity,” said Senator Cryan. “We do better as a state if all of our students are offered a quality education, regardless of race or socioeconomic background. Our diversity gives us a competitive advantage that is critical to our prosperity as a state.”
The first step is to assess current racial and socioeconomic conditions in the schools, Senator Cryan said, referring to the responsibilities that would be vested in the newly created desegregation division.
To achieve its goals, the division would compile statistics on the racial, ethnic, and economic composition of each public school, do a comparative analysis of the educational outcomes of students in highly segregated schools and the more racially and economically integrated schools.
The division would then produce a strategic plan within 180 days to increase and maintain diversity in all school districts. The plan would be submitted to the Governor and the Legislature and would have to be updated every five years.
The Commissioner of Education would appoint the division’s director.
According to UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, school enrollment trends in New Jersey over the past two decades indicate increasing racial isolation for Latino students and persistent segregation for Black students. Current patterns demonstrate that a greater number of schools in New Jersey are more concentrated minority schools compared to 20 years ago.
A lawsuit was filed in 2018 against the State of New Jersey, claiming the failure to achieve school integration is harming educational opportunities for students in minority communities. The lawsuit is still pending.
The committee vote was 3 – 2.