Your editorial, Promoting Diversity in Public Schools [Jan. 22], got it exactly right. If a majority of the United States Supreme Court rules, as many think they will, to invalidate voluntary racial diversity plans in the Seattle and Jefferson County public schools, it “would betray the ideals of Brown and undermine one of the Court’s greatest accomplishments.”
The Law Journal should take the next logical step and focus attention on New Jersey’s highly disturbing situation regarding racial diversity in our public schools. We have the nation’s strongest state constitutional law mandating racial balance in the public schools. Decades ago, our constitution was construed to impose that obligation on schools with de facto segregation and to empower the commissioner of education to cross school district lines to vindicate students’ constitutional rights.
Yet, year after year, we have one of the very worst records of school segregation in the nation. In 2004, Chief Justice Deborah Poritz wrote for a unanimous court that “[w]e have paid lip service to the idea of diversity in our schools, but in the real world we have not succeeded.”
Nothing has changed for the better since then. It is long past time for us to begin meeting, “in the real world,” our fundamental constitutional obligations.
Paul L. Tractenberg
The writer is Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor and Alfred C. Clapp Distinguished Public Service Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School-Newark. He also is the founder of both the Education Law Center and the Rutgers-Newark Institute on Education Law and Policy.