"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Photo: King delivers his iconic speech during the climax of the march on Washington.
Associated Press file
As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy, I am saddened by the reality of the statistics in the chart below. There are large disparities in the student populations--in terms of race and income--in the publicly funded Hoboken Public schools.
In one square mile we have four public school districts: Public district (Brandt Primary School; Calabro, Connors and Wallace Elementary Schools and Hoboken Junior Senior High) and three Charter districts (Elysian Charter School, Hoboken Charter School, Hola Dual Language Charter School). The Public school district enrolls every child that applies while the Charter districts each use a lottery system to fill their limited seats. An unintended result of the lottery system, as indicated by the data in the chart, is segregated schools.
I believe that Dr. King is looking down on Hoboken and is proud of Dr. Toback, the superintendent of the Hoboken Public School district, who has brought this topic to the fore and has had conversations with the Directors of the other three publicly funded school districts in Hoboken to explore ways to address this issue. Dr. Toback has also asked the NJDOE for their help in exploring ways to ‘fix the lottery process’ and to “help balance enrollment”.
Are there other factors that have created this imbalance? The perception of the Public District schools hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years but the demographics of the City has as the increasing number of new more affluent families arrive in Hoboken. The Charter schools appear to be the only “choice” for many of these new families. Is this a choice based on the district’s historically low test scores, or a decision based on race or income disparities? Maybe it’s a little of both?
While we can all agree that it’s harder and costlier to educate a population of students that bear the burden of poverty, we can also agree that it’s easier to educate children of more affluent, engaged families. If we continue on this path we will have what is being described as “apartheid schools”–a school system in which the district public schools educate a majority of disadvantaged students and the Charter schools educate the more privileged students. Is this how public funds should be used? Is this how a community thrives?
Positive results happen when engaged parents get involved to change the status quo as witnessed during my tenure on the Hoboken Board of Education. The past four years have seen many positive results and many success stories in the Public School district led by Dr. Toback and a group of dedicated and engaged parents.
Let’s embrace the fact that Hoboken is a rich, diverse community and let our differences be the bond that unites us, not divides us. I welcome you to join in the discussion in the name of Martin Luther King, Jr.