RED BANK: INKY PROBES SEGREGATION CLAIMS

The Red Bank Charter School on Oakland Street. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Is the Red bank school district segregated? And if so, is the Red Bank Charter School at fault?

An article published Thursday on philly.com, the online version of the Philadelphia Inquirer, probes that question, and whether others among New Jersey’s 88 charter schools are also segregated.

District Superintendent Jared Rumage, center, with school board President Fred Stone in May. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

“New Jersey’s charter schools often don’t mirror the demographics of other public schools in their districts, an Inquirer analysis found — though whether they should, and how closely, is a subject of contention in both courts and communities,” reporters Maddie Hanna and Jonathan Lai write.

“Nationally, studies comparing charter and traditional school enrollments and tracking student transfers have found greater segregation of students as a result of charters.”

From the article:

The Inquirer’s analysis of the state’s 88 charter schools found that almost all of the schools differ by at least 10 percentage points from their districts in at least one of three major demographic categories — race, socio-economic status, or English language proficiency.

Critics contend Red Bank is the “most segregated school district in the state of New Jersey,” and some of the data cited by the Inky appears to support that. The charter school leads the state in terms of share of white students compared to the local district. The school also has a far lower percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch or are limited in their English language proficiency, the Inky reports.

Nearly 89 percent of Red Bank Borough school students were eligible for free or reduced lunch in 2016-17, compared with 42 percent at the charter school. Just over 35 percent of the borough students were limited English proficient, compared with 4 percent at the charter school. Those gaps have widened over time, according to the Inquirer’s analysis of Department of Education data.

Charter school superintendent and principal Meredith Pennotti is quoted saying that the 19-year-old school is integrated, and achieving that is “hard to do.”

But district Superintendent Jared Rumage told the Inky that “the very existence of the charter school implies to the community, and those people interested in purchasing homes in our community, that the public schools are inadequate,” and thus has has driven some parents away from the district schools.

Last November, a parent group called Fair Schools Red Bank and the Latino Coalition of New Jersey filed a joint complaint with the civil rights division of the federal Department of Education asking it to “investigate and ultimately remedy” enrollment and funding practices at charter school that they claim result in discrimination. That request is pending.

Separately, in March of this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said it had joined with the two groups to appeal the state Department of Education’s decision  to allow the charter school to operate for at least another five years.

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