Monday, July 9, 2018

NJ: Focus on Educational Freedom, Not ‘Desegregation’

New Jersey is being sued. The suit alleges that NJ schools are the most segregated in the nation, and the suit seeks to compel the state government to take actions to “desegregate.”

Now, just to be clear, NJ schools are not segregated. That is, there are no laws that overtly require the separation of the races. In a article published in the NJ Star-Ledger, Will my child be forced to switch schools? What parents need to know about N.J. desegregation suit, Adam Clark explains:

Segregation is often thought of as the mandatory separation of whites and non-whites, like white and black bathrooms or lunch counters.

But New Jersey's Supreme Court has taken a different position, ruling in prior cases schools can be considered segregated even if it's "de facto segregation," the plaintiffs argue.

In other words, socioeconomics and race often go hand-in-hand in New Jersey. So, if black and Hispanic families would like to send their kids to a school with white children but can't afford to live in such a school district, they're effectively being segregated into a district such as Irvington, Plainfield or New Brunswick -- all places where fewer than 1 percent of students are white.

Based on legal precedent in New Jersey, that kind of segregation violates the state constitution, the suit claims.

The suit does not seek to force busing of students to correct the racial imbalances, as some initially feared, and which was done with great upheaval in the 1970s. The suit does not seek to forcibly transfer any students against the parents’ will. Instead, the suit seeks to overturn the requirement that students be assigned to a school based on the student’s zip code.

Suggesting several different possible options, the suit seeks to give parents choices within the government school system. But the suit leaves up to the state education commissioner the solutions “on a case-by-case basis.” The main point is “to get white and non-white students under the same roof.”:

The suit aims to strike down the requirement that students must attend schools where they live and force the state to come up with solutions for getting black and Hispanic kids into integrated schools.

This is nothing new. Milton Friedman long ago pointed out the absurdity and injustice of assigning children to a school based on their parents’ zip code. But:

"It would not blow up the whole system," said Gary Stein, a former state Supreme Court justice who spearheaded the lawsuit. "It would simply knock down a fence that is a barrier to diversity."

I left these comments:

What is the primary goal of “desegregation?” Racial diversity for the sake of racial diversity? Or is it individual student education? If it’s education, then what sense does it make to limit parental choice to existing government school districts or even magnet schools? Why not “blow up the whole system?” Open up the field of parental choice to all options, including charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling, regardless of location. Why not knock down all fences that are barriers to these other options, leaving it up to parental choice? I would say the rights of parents is one of the most basic of rights. Through tax credits or education savings accounts, relinquish power to the parents by letting education tax dollars follow the child to the option chosen by the parents.

Civil rights activists should focus more on individual rights--the right of the parent to seek out the best education options based on her own child’s needs from the offerings of education entrepreneurs who would flourish in an open education field. Racial diversity is fine, but not primary. Educational diversity to meet the diverse individual needs of individual students is paramount. Focus on education, not the desires of skin color-obsessed social planners or the monopoly-protecting dictates of the teachers unions.

Related Reading:

Is "Desegregation" the Answer to NJ's Education Problems?

A Newark, NJ Mother Demonstrates the Educational Power of Parental School Choice

Contra Congressman Donald M. Payne, a ‘For-Profit Model’ is Just What Education Needs

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