'Apartheid' Schools On The Rise In NJ, Study Says

New Jersey may be one of the most racially diverse states in the nation, but many of its public schools don't reflect it, according to a new report.

The nearly 1.4 million public school children in New Jersey remain among the most segregated in the nation, according to an analysis by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angles.

The percentage of New Jersey students attending "apartheid schools" -- where only between 0 and 1 percent of the pupils are white -- has nearly doubled from 4.8 percent to 8.3 percent since 1989, the report concluded.

"This report shows that New Jersey has moved another substantial step toward a segregated future with no racial majority but severe racial stratification and division," said Gary Orfield, one of the report's authors and co-director of UCLA's Civil Rights Project.

New Jersey ranks as the sixth most segregated state in the nation for black students and the seventh most segregated for Latino students, the report said.

Why are New Jersey's schools so segregated?

The problem isn't within school districts, the researchers found. Most of New Jersey's schools are an accurate representation of their school districts -- rarely are all the white kids in a town sent to one school while the minority students are sent to another school.

Instead, much of the segregation can be traced to how New Jersey's cities, suburbs and school systems are structured, the study said.

Because the state has 585 school districts, and few regional districts, schools largely reflect the housing in their towns. Many wealthy suburbs tend to be more white or Asian. Larger cities are mainly black and Hispanic.

So, black and Hispanic students may be concentrated in one town's high school, while there is a nearly all-white school a few miles away, the report said.

What are "apartheid schools"?

Apartheid was used to describe the system in South Africa before 1991 that used laws to create institutionalized racism by keeping black and white residents separated.

Education researchers use the term apartheid to describe the most segregated schools in New Jersey, where less than 1 percent of students are white, because they say the segregation creates its own form of institutionalized racism.

Research shows that students who are educated in high-minority, high-poverty schools often have lower grades, lower graduation rates and a lifetime of lower achievement compared to other students in more diverse districts, the report said.

Studies also show that students who go to racially diverse schools as children often choose to live and work in more racially diverse areas as adults, creating better options for their children, the report said.

How are New Jersey's schools changing?

The new report -- titled New Jersey's Segregated Schools: Trends and Paths Forward -- is an update to a similar study by the Civil Rights Project that analyzed the state's school segregation between 1989 and 2010.

For the new report, researchers looked at how the state's school population changed between 2010 and 2015.

They found the percentage of white students was shrinking, the percentage of black students was relatively steady and the number of Hispanic and Asian students were on the rise.

In 2015-2016, the percentage of white students in New Jersey's public schools dropped below 50 percent for the first time and no race made up the majority of the state's school children.

Though New Jersey was growing more diverse, its schools are getting more segregated, researchers said. 

"The passage of time is only making the challenges more severe. Little has been accomplished in the years since the first report. It is time to act," Orfield wrote.

Are charter schools or private schools more diverse?

New Jersey's public charter school enrollment has been rising in recent years, but students are unlikely to find ethnically diverse schools if they enroll, the study found.

In 2015-2016, the state's charter schools were 55 percent African American, 31 percent Hispanic, 8 percent white and 5 percent Asian, the study found.

New Jersey's private schools, where 70 percent of the students enrolled are white, are even less diverse than public schools, the study found.

What can New Jersey do to make public schools less segregated?

The authors of the report suggest some of the solutions to school segregation might include starting regional school districts, offering some school choice options and locating affordable housing options outside of cities to bring a more diverse mix of wealthy and low-income families into school districts.

Another option is having the courts step in, as they have in New Jersey to require more equitable school funding between wealthy and poor districts.

"Because the commitment of the courts has been to create schools that are more equitable solely in terms of dollars and programs, segregation has gone unchecked," the report said.

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