Disputing Letter-Writers’ Assertions on New Jersey

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In their letter to the editor, Brenda Liss, Alan Sadovnik, and Paul Tractenberg write that “despite a state constitutional provision prohibiting school segregation, New Jersey’s schools remain some of the most segregated in the nation” ("N.J. School Choice Debate Lays Out Issues, Divisions," Jan. 12, 2005.)

This statement is not accurate. There is no school district called New Jersey. There are 597 school districts within the state of New Jersey.

Segregation within a school district is illegal. For two decades, these singular districts have been required to desegregate. Their plans are monitored by state and county superintendents.

However, N.J. students living in districts where desegregation is impossible because of racial or linguistic concentration have no constitutional right to enroll in another district. A Camden student is not constitutionally eligible to attend school in Cherry Hill. A Newark student may not enroll in Millburn Township.

The writers correctly identify a voluntary state program in which some districts at some grade levels have agreed to enroll some students. This is a local district board of education’s choice.

All districts have policies permitting out-of-district students to apply for enrollment and pay tuition. But districts determine who is permitted into specific grades or programs.

The writers wish to define issues and debate. They ask others to abstain from rhetoric. Yet their point, in this instance, is an assertion and a desire. It is not a constitutionally adjudicated finding.

Harry Stein
New York, N.Y.

The writer is a retired N.J. school administrator with 15 years in the state department of education and 15 years running a district.

Vol. 24, Issue 21, Page 42

Published in Print: February 2, 2005, as Disputing Letter-Writers’ Assertions on New Jersey

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