Rights Groups and Parents Appeal Segregated Red Bank School District’s Charter School Renewal

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
April 12, 2017 3:45 pm

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Civil rights and community groups officially filed to appeal the New Jersey Department of Education’s decision to renew the charter of Red Bank Charter School, which has shown striking signs of segregation throughout the years. When the NJDOE considers renewing a charter, New Jersey law requires the state to take into account whether the charter school causes segregation in the district where the school is located.

The Latino Coalition of New Jersey and Fair Schools Red Bank, with legal representation from the ACLU of New Jersey and Gibbons PC, filed a notice of appeal yesterday, April 11, in the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court.

“Red Bank’s pattern of racial segregation is among the most pronounced in the state, and that disparity harms all students, Latino and white alike,” said Frank Argote-Freyre, Director of the Latino Coalition of New Jersey. “The Department of Education rubber-stamped the charter renewal without ever acknowledging the clear signs of racial segregation that community members, civil rights leaders, and advocates have long brought to the state’s attention. The unquestioning approval of the charter sends a disturbing message about this administration’s high tolerance for unfair treatment. It’s time to right this longstanding wrong.”

The New Jersey Department of Education renewed the charter for five years on March 1, in spite of racial disparities between the student bodies of the heavily white charter school and the heavily Latino Red Bank Borough Public Schools.

Although Red Bank’s charter school and public schools pull students from the same area, white students are significantly over-represented and Latino students are significantly underrepresented at Red Bank Charter School compared to the public schools. Since Red Bank Charter School’s 1997 founding, disparities have worsened.

“Our children deserve better than unconstitutional treatment – all children do. We’re filing this appeal for them,” said Wayne Woolley, a member of Fair Schools Red Bank, a group that advocates for an end to discriminatory practices in the school district. “It’s heartbreaking that the predominantly Latino public schools are short more than two-dozen teachers, have to share aides and resources, and have gone without much-needed facility repairs, while the whiter and wealthier charter school can afford to hire two teachers in every class, expand their facility, and offer boutique fitness classes. All children deserve an excellent public education, whether they attend a district school or a charter school in the same town.”

According to the most recent enrollment numbers from the New Jersey Department of Education for the 2016-17 school year, the Red Bank Borough Public Schools student body is:

  • 82 percent Latino
  • 8 percent white
  • 35 percent limited English proficiency
  • 89 percent eligible for free or reduced lunches

In contrast, for the 2016-2017 school year, the Red Bank Charter School student body is:

  • 44 percent Latino
  • 43 percent white
  • 4 percent limited English proficiency
  • 42 percent eligible for free or reduced lunches

Although the Red Bank public schools have experienced program cuts because of slashed budgets, the charter school has been fully funded.

“All children deserve to learn in an environment free from segregation, and the students of Red Bank are no different,” said ACLU of New Jersey Legal Director Ed Barocas. “The State may have approved the two-tiered system in Red Bank, but the Constitution never will. The kind of segregation happening in Red Bank is illegal, and it hurts students and communities.”

Read the letter objecting to the charter’s renewal (PDF).

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