Above Photo: New Jersey Policy Perspective
Separate And Unequal
The U.S. public school system is one of the most unequal in the industrialized world, and New Jersey is no exception, according to a new report by New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). Due to racist housing practices such as “redlining” and “blockbusting,” many Black and Hispanic/Latinx students do not receive the resources they need to ensure equal educational opportunity in the Garden State.
“We have long seen school funding and student outcome disparities that fall disparately by race, disadvantaging Black and Latinx communities in particular,” said Bruce Baker, Ed.D., report co-author and Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. “It’s important to understand, as we lay out in this report, that those disparities were actually caused by systemic discrimination based on race. The cause was racism. The solutions must consider race and directly address racial disparities.”
The report, ***Separate and Unequal: Racial and Ethnic Segregation and the Case for School Funding Reparations in New Jersey***, compares the tax base of three municipalities harmed by redlining, blockbusting, and structural racism (East Orange, Willingboro, and Lawnside) to three neighboring municipalities benefited by these policies (Millburn, Moorestown, and Haddonfield).
The report finds that school districts in the communities harmed by racist policies have more students of color and substantially lower-income and housing value per student, making it more difficult to raise local revenues for schools.
For example, 95 percent of students in East Orange are Black compared to 5 percent of students in neighboring Millburn. East Orange has $104,685.24 in taxable income per student and $324,036.10 in equalized property value per student, while Millburn has $1,020,995.77 in taxable income per student and an equalized property value per student of $2,079,451.92.
“What this report makes clear is that we can’t simply declare that systemic racism is finished and everyone should just move on,” said Mark Weber, Ph.D., report author and Special Analyst for Education Policy at NJPP. “Black and Latinx students and taxpayers are suffering from the consequences of racist practices right now; we can’t simply pretend they don’t exist anymore.”
To compensate for a lower property tax base, municipalities harmed by redlining and blockbusting must raise property taxes to rates higher than in neighboring towns that are wealthier and whiter — in effect, a “discrimination tax” on Black and Hispanic/Latinx residents. The report finds a discrimination tax of 0.44 percent for Hispanic/Latinx residents and 0.67 percent discrimination tax for Black residents.
Looking at comparable states in the regions, the report finds that, like New Jersey, Massachusetts has a history of redlining and block-busting. Unlike New Jersey, Massachusetts does not have a discrimination tax for school funding and sees better educational outcomes for Black and Hispanic/Latinx students. In order for New Jersey to see the success Massachusetts has in closing education achievement gaps, New Jersey would need to spend an estimated additional $5,672 per Black student and $7,472 per Hispanic/Latinx student.
“While I am very proud that New Jersey’s public schools are consistently ranked the best in the nation, I also know that we still need to address the pervasive systemic racism that denies some of our children the resources and opportunities that all of our students deserve,” said Sean M. Spiller, President of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). “Our generation has an obligation to carry on the work of undoing and overcoming the historic and ongoing injustices that exist in our communities and our public schools.”
The report concludes with a recommendation that New Jersey recalibrate its school funding system to address the additional costs that chronic, systemic racism imposes on districts that enroll a majority of students of color.