Candidates Share Thoughts on Recent School Segregation Ruling
This is the sixth article in a series. In an effort to better understand what voters want to know about the seven candidates for the Board of Education, we invited the community to send in questions. Each candidate was given the same set of ten questions and were invited to respond to any six of them. They had six days to submit their answers. The questions ranged from handling division on the BOE to keeping school taxes low and to more pointed questions about book banning and school segregation.
Five of the seven candidates responded by the deadline. Juan Pabon sent his late and will be included in the remaining articles. We did not receive a response from Jim Smith.
We will present the responses in a series of articles, publishing them in collections that will allow the community to directly compare responses from the various candidates. Responses are listed in no particular order and the order will vary from article to article. The first one tackled the question of keeping taxes low and was the only question that all five respondents chose as one of their six to answer. The second looked into the candidates’ specific backgrounds and asked them to pinpoint some of the issues they see in the district. The third story asked the candidates what they would change in the district if they had a magic wand. The fourth covered yearly goals and unifying the BOE and the fifth story tackled two of the most controversial questions submitted, which the same three candidates opted to address. Yesterday’s story looked at the candidates’ views on attracting and retaining high-quality educators to the district.
What's your opinion on the recent state superior court ruling on segregation in New Jersey?
Education advocates and lawyers brought a suit before the state superior court, alleging that New Jersey schools are deeply segregated by race and that many minority students are not receiving the “thorough and efficient education” they are guaranteed. Superior Court Judge Robert T. Lougy seemed to agree that the state had an “attitude of helplessness” towards addressing segregation but took no action - neither dismissing the case nor scheduling a trial.
Tanya Suarez - “Quite honestly, I need more than a couple of paragraphs to adequately share my thoughts on this matter. What I am able to share is a question that leads to my train of thought: What problem are we looking to solve by integrating schools? Historically, school integration has been a problem, not a solution, for students of color because they have been forced to learn in neighborhoods that are often unwelcoming and far from their homes.
Therefore, I do not see school segregation as the main problem. Instead, the problem that I see is the lack of resources that are given to school districts that are segregated. It is unfortunate that state mandates require school funding to come from housing taxes because that also means that the districts that are populated mostly by renters pay less taxes into the school system. It so happens that the cities and towns that have the highest renter population also have a majority of Black and Latino residents. With the way this policy plays out, segregated school districts of Black and Latino populations get less money for resources such as adequate staffing, adequate safety measures in schools, updated books in libraries, and quality and experienced teachers, to name only a few issues. The lawsuit against segregated schools does nothing to address the fundamental and problematic design of the funding policies. I do not believe desegregating schools is the answer. NJ state needs to address new and innovative ways to fund public schools so that all districts, regardless of the demographics, receive adequate funding that allows for excellent and safe learning environments for all.”
Cameron Hebron - “The system isn’t broken, it’s working exactly as intended. How do we expect our Supreme Court to acknowledge schools are segregated when they haven’t even addressed redlining and zoning laws that seem to concentrate structural vulnerabilities and oftentimes lower life expectancies to lower income or high crime neighborhoods? The cycles and legacies are right in front of our faces.”
Joe Canova - “The recent state superior court ruling on segregation in NJ schools highlights the need for addressing inequities in education. The judge in the New Jersey case did not rule that assigning local schools is unconstitutional in and of itself. He ruled that the state of New Jersey has a duty to address de facto segregation in its schools and that it has failed to do so. The case is now in a pre-trial phase, and the next step is for it to go to trial or into settlement negotiations. The outcome of the case could have a significant impact on the future of education in New Jersey.”
Many thanks to the community members who submitted questions for our Board of Education candidates and to the candidates who offered their thoughtful replies. As Election Day approaches, please do your part by educating yourself on the candidates and making a plan to vote. Talk to your neighbors, friends, and family and make sure that they too have a plan. Elections have consequences; use your vote to help guide the future of our city, county, and state.