Republican Sen. Jon Bramnick is under fire from liberal Democrat Lisa McCormick for his proposed constitutional amendment, SCR-67, which would enshrine the current practice of assigning students to public schools based on their town of residence or ZIP code.
McCormick, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2018, accused Bramnick of perpetuating school segregation, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.
She pointed to the well-documented benefits of integrated schools and criticized the state’s inaction on the issue.
“Sen. Bramnick’s amendment would not only prevent students from being compelled to attend schools other than the nearest to their residence but also perpetuate unconstitutional school segregation,” McCormick said. “New Jersey has failed to address segregation in its public schools, and this amendment is just another attempt to maintain the status quo.”
“In its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Supreme Court ruled that separating children in public schools on the basis of race was unconstitutional,” McCormick said. “It should have ended legalized racial segregation in schools in the United States, by overruling the ‘separate but equal’ principle set forth in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, but New Jersey remains far behind the times.”
Bramnick’s amendment comes in response to a Superior Court judge’s ruling in October, which declared that New Jersey must address unofficial segregation in its school districts.
The lawsuit, initiated in 2018 by groups including the Latino Action Network and the NAACP, argues that the state has failed to rectify racial segregation in public schools.
The plaintiffs argued that public schools are segregated by race and the state has failed to remedy this situation.
The New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association joined the controversy, arguing court that its members could contribute to dismantling segregation by admitting students from outside municipal boundaries, but McCormick accused the group of profiteering at public expense by diverting public school students to private educational facilities or those managed by corporate interests.
As the legal battle intensifies, lawyers on both sides have entered into a confidential mediation process. The mediation, welcomed by all parties involved, aims to find a solution to New Jersey’s longstanding problem of school segregation before the scheduled court date on January 16.
Lawyers on both sides are meeting today for the first in a series of discussions as part of a confidential mediation process. The move was welcomed by all three parties involved with the lawsuit: the state, the plaintiffs and the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association, which joined the case as a co-defendant with the state. Barry Albin, a retired state Supreme Court associate justice, will serve as mediator. The courts have given the groups until Jan. 16 to come to an agreement.
The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Lawrence Lustberg, expressed optimism about the mediation process, hoping for a more expeditious resolution than prolonged litigation. The Office of the Attorney General acknowledged the benefits of a diverse school environment and stressed the commitment to providing a thorough and efficient education to every student.
Despite the October ruling acknowledging the problem of “de facto” segregation in schools, which occurs without official policy, the court did not propose a remedy. Javier Robles, president of the Latino Action Network, described mediation as a positive step, considering the absence of a stronger ruling in their favor.
The key demand from the plaintiffs is to end the practice of assigning students to public schools based on residence, calling for a replacement assignment methodology. As discussions unfold in mediation, the parties involved grapple with the challenge of balancing educational opportunities for all students while addressing the deep-seated issue of segregation in New Jersey schools.