Sunday, March 2, 2014


I had objected strongly to the use of the term “apartheid”; a position I continue to hold. The report itself states that it is not about apartheid laws and practices but about the educational and social reality of schools isolated from white students and in the majority of the cases from students who are not poor. “The segregation of black and Latino students is not caused by poverty”  

 It notes that “School segregation is worse than residential segregation”.

So why use an inflammatory tag to characterize those school systems such as Plainfield’s? The authors note that although these schools are not created by law; their racial patterns are like apartheid schools hence the terminology.

There is no question that Plainfield’s school district is one of the most extreme segregated districts in the State defined by the lack of white students with only 0.7% white students or about 85, in all the schools. There is no other school district in Union County that comes close.                                      

The 2011 figures show that of the then enrolled 6381 students some 76% fall into the “poverty level.

By noting that Plainfield was one of the first school systems to have mandatory busing; I tried to answer how Plainfield and its schools arrived at this intolerable situation in which only Union City, Passaic City, Asbury Park and just fractionally Camden City have systems with a greater percentage of poverty level students.

In the 1962 report by Dr. Max Wolf it was noted that out of the 11 public schools in the district 4 were segregated and the other 7 were not. Only Washington school with a 95% black student body was markedly so , and as a neighborhood school its population area was bonded by Plainfield Ave to Grant Ave and on  the south by 7th St. 

This was obviously a product of Plainfield’s own bigotry which led to racial and religious, and  in some cases ethnic unofficial closed  residential areas.

The 3 other Schools Emerson, Lincoln, and Stillman had a 60-65% black student body note one that I would consider “segregated but rather  integrated with a preponderance  of blacks.

Cook school at that time had no black students which in part I blame on area bias. Cederbrook and Evergreen had between. 2.7% and 5.2%

Incidentally the 2 Jr. Highs (6-8) and High School had a black population of 28% and 19% respectably.

It was in an attempt to remedy this lack of system wide integration that led to the ill-advised mandatory busing which initiated the first wave of whites with school children moving “to the hills”.

The riots of 68 accelerated the change in population demographics.

The report has stated that it was not for the lack of infusion of money that has led to these poor performing hyper-segregated schools but the lack of proper usage of the funds.

In Plainfield that seems to have had an association with the change from an appointed BOE to an elected one. Unfortunately an elected Board was supposed to represent the interest of the population demographics in the system. I pointed out the fact that of the almost 50% Latino student body there are no Hispanics on the Board. 

Unfortunately the Board elections have been a power struggle between two organized politically motivated groups. But that is a separate issue.

 I was accused of not having read the report’s recommendations of solutions because I wrote that no legislature or group of politicians would ever pass laws abolishing local districts and creating a statewide school system with mandatory racial and/or economic representation in all classes”, however the authors made four suggestions as solutions.

The first was the establishment of magnet schools. Magnet schools have specialized curricula and can be open to students in or outside a district. This experiment is being tried locally; but it will affect if successful the educational goals not the racial diversity desired. Also it seems to be only system oriented.

The second suggestion involves Charter Schools or the interdistrict choice program. The latter can be very limited by available space for out of district pupils.

The Charter school system has been no guarantee of improved education and is no answer to the racial/ethnic intermingling deemed important. The example of Essex County’s Charter Schools is given which has 17 Charter Schools of which 14 have black averaged enrollment of 84.7%; while the other 3 have Latino enrolment of roughly 60 to 7 % ;certainly not the answer.

The Third recommendation is the only one I consider viable. It is that state and local governments should not build or subsidize more low-income housing in areas where students must attend segregated schools. This is doable but does not correct the present situation.

Finally the fourth solution I have considered to be unlikely; that is that New Jersey seriously consider school district consolidation to promote civil rights and racial balance goals. The report acknowledges when it has been tried in the past it has “been scuttled by the political process.”


  1. The fourth solution is the one that will eventually happen, and not for the reason of achieving racial balance (although that would be a partial result).

    Most districts elected to move to November elections to avoid the requirement of voter budget approval. However, the expenses - particularly union negotiated teacher and administrator salaries - far exceed the 2 percent cap allowed. While some accounting tricks will allow for this to remain hidden, eventually, the districts will need to use referendum to match their required expenditures. Few will likely pass which will result in the cap being lifted.

    When this happens, people will start to scream and insist on consolidation over the objections raised by those who believe local control is still a necessity for whatever reasons. There is nothing like looking at a $35,000 annual property tax bill on a house valued at $200,000 to motivate a person to overcome their home rule based objections.

  2. 9:44; Agreed, if this occurs it will not be for civil rights or racial balance. The impetus will be dollars and cents. The affluent districts will still try to block to maintain tghe purity of their schools.

  3. Just asking
    Why didn't you discuss Clinton School West 4 St corner Clinton AV
    It was a very special place implemented with extra summer intrgrated staff classes and co-ordinators for the P I P program headed by N Y professor
    Dr Joseph Remson ---from Columbia.
    The "Black Panthers" scared the mostly, of color,audience at first crowded PTA meeting- shouting and marchimg around the perimeter "Don't allow your children to be their "guinea pigs"!
    A huge amount of money came from USA govt--supplies, training meetings etc

  4. 11:39 AM,I try to condense lots of info into limited readable space. Public comments like yours is a source of expanding what I write. I hope more will use this as a platform for positive expression.