Thursday, September 29, 2016

Some Refutations to Statements Made at HBOE Board Meeting

Church of the Holy Innocents- Hoboken, NJ
There were some apparently well meaning statements made at the March, 2016 Hoboken Board of Education meeting concerning lawsuits, civil rights, and segregation. Here I present some arguments which attempt to address some of these statements with data and hopefully redirect some of the sincere and heartfelt concern for the children currently being educated in the traditional Hoboken Public Schools toward the idea of quality of education as a civil right. -Dr. Petrosino

I. "The school (a charter school involved in a lawsuit with the Hoboken school district) has the burden to show that this (expansion to 8th grade) would not exacerbate segregation in the district. Segregative effect is essentially a civil rights question. It’s a legal question and I believe we need the courts to help us figure this out -"

Response: These charts and graphs should help people see that there is not a segregation issue in the Hoboken Public Schools but rather an abandonment of the public schools by non- economically disadvantaged families after a few years of attendance in the public schools. 

Figure 1: No segregation effect in early grades. District does lose non
low income family majority by 4th grade but not to charter schools

Figure 2: Percent low income disaggregated by grade. Again, District
is majority non low income (K-3) but loses middle income families by 4th grade
Figure 3: Longitudinal segregation trend of Hoboken School District
points distinctly toward decreased segregation not increase segregation

II. "To be clear, no one is calling for schools to get closed or calling anyone a “whatzit,” rather we are asking for a neutral party to answer these hard questions for us." 

Response: (see Figure 4). 

Figure 4- Except from lawsuit where the Hoboken Board of Education demands
that Hola's renewal (a.k.a. "their existence") and their expansion to be set aside

III. Thank you to the majority of the board who have refrained from political gaming and who have acted at great personal cost to defend the civil rights of children in our district

Response: There is no argument that education is the civil rights issue of today. It is and major issue. So it is fair to ask are the civil rights of the public school children of Hoboken being denied somehow? Let's examine this issue as objectivity as possible. 

Since the famous 1954 case of Brown v. The Board of Education, it has been 1) illegal for public schools to discriminate on the basis of race. It is also 2) illegal for a public school district to be segregated as a result of intentional practices, such as the drawing of school district boundaries around exclusively single-race areas (a practice known as de jure segregation). These facts lend themselves to the argument that education is a civil right, or that education can be considered a de facto civil right.  

1) All public schools in the country, including Hoboken, have open enrollment and are officially "blind" in terms of race or economic condition. In New Jersey, when there is more demand than seats available for a particular school (often a magnet school or a charter school), a state approved lottery is utilized to assure fair and equitable access. 

2) There are no boundaries around exclusive single race areas concerning any charter school in Hoboken. All charter schools draw from the entire city of Hoboken. Interestingly, the most de facto segregated schools in Hoboken are both traditional public schools with Brandt having a disportioncate percentage of white students and Connors having an over-representation of minority students. Nonetheless, these skewed demographics are not part of de jure segregation

Are there other ways students civil rights may be threatened or violated? What about funding? Are proper funds not being allocated to the Hoboken Public Schools for educating their students? 

3) Per pupil spending in the Hoboken public schools is the highest per pupil spending in Hudson County, NJ according to Furthermore, contrary to what Kids First Board member Leon Gold insists, charter schools are not "bankrupting" the Hoboken Public Schools- especially when there is a $5.4 million dollar surplus from last year's budget. 

In an interview with titled "Hoboken's Charter School Nightmare," Gold, said this about charters:
We’re being hurt by increasing white flight from our school system [to charters], and we’re being strangled financially: Because of the [tax] cap that they put on in Jersey, we can’t even pay the amount of money that we will have to pay out from local tax levy, to support the charter school expansion. 
And they are actually starving us; we are going to have to engage in layoffs now because of this … Hoboken is this incredible nexus, where everything wrong about charter schools [and] about funding all comes together …
It’s stealing from our public school education. If Christie wanted to fund them completely through state aid, great … “School choice” … they’ve increased it for the charter schools, and reduced it for us …
Leon Gold must know nothing about public education in the rest of New Jersey if he thinks that Hoboken will be "bankrupted" by charters.

Hoboken cannot blame charters for all its budgetary "starvation." Hoboken is New Jersey's second highest spending K-12 district (after Asbury Park), so the notion that Hoboken is being "strangled" is insane unless you ignore conditions in the rest of Hudson County, New Jersey, and nation, which is precisely what Gold does. See this article for a more detailed analysis: CLICK HERE

So, with a per pupil spending north or $25,000 per student (K-12 per pupil spending is closer to $30,000 actually), a $5.4 million dollar surplus, and the fact that Hoboken still receives some funds and is under the protection of the Abbott decision, we can agree that proper money is being allocated for the children of the Hoboken Schools. And if any Board member feels the schools are NOT adequately funded, they have the power to raise taxes in the municipality to assure that the schools are properly funded. 

We have shown that there is no restriction to enrollment in Hoboken. We have also shown there is no institutional segregation based on where someone lives. Both of these are assurances of civil rights being protected. Furthermore, we showed that there is proper funding for the pubic schools of Hoboken-- and that claims of being "under funded" or of going "bankrupt" are not credible under even the most generous understanding of the terms. 

4) But one might argue that a civil right of a student might be to have access to a proper education. For that, it might be useful to look at how the public schools have been performing under the leadership of a political group known as "Kids First/Reach Higher Hoboken!" over the past 7 years. After reading and examining this list, it would be interesting to entertain the notion of whether the children of the Hoboken pubic schools are receiving the quality education that they need and deserve and that the taxpayers of the City are receiving the quality education and outcomes they are generously supplying: 

1) lower SAT scores than expected from economic status of student families
2) designation of the Hoboken School District as a District in Need of Improvement
3) low rating of the Hoboken School District by independent news organizations
4) violence, vandalism and bullying in the Hoboken Public Schools; and 
5) four consecutive years of failing INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAM as evaluated by the New Jersey Department of Education
6) recent teacher effectiveness ratings
7) High School graduation rates

A quick summary: 
The Hoboken Public School students obtain SAT scores lower than expected by their socio-economic status, they are in a district that was designated by the New Jersey Department of Education as a "District in Need of Improvement" and this district has failed the New Jersey QSAC DPR for Instruction and Program for the past 4 years. The Newark Star Ledger gave the district high school a "D". In addition, the district was rated the 9th most violent school district in New Jersey by and the rate of violence and vandalism incidents in the schools remain very high compared to schools in Hudson County and around the state. Add to this 6 superintendents in 7 years and 4 different district configurations in the same period and we can see reason why the quality of education the poor and disadvantaged students of Hoboken are receiving under the leadership of the "Kids First/Reach Higher Hoboken!" political group might be considered a threat to their civil rights. Especially if one considers the quality of an education to be a civil right. 

Conclusion: Perhaps the civil rights of students in Hoboken are being threatened. But it is clear these rights are not being violated by an expansion of two grades by a single charter school, or enrollment restrictions, or boundary restrictions, and it is evident that proper funding is being allocated. It may be the case that the children of Hoboken are being denied the quality education they truly deserve and require and that may be a violation to the spirit of civil rights and to the 1954 decision of Brown vs. Board of Education. Whether this is a legal issue or a moral issue is an interesting question. But for those who wish to applaud the upholding of the civil rights of students by the current "Kids First/Move Forward Hoboken!" majority of the Hoboken Board of may be time to closely examine the education being received by the district's high needs population and whether their civil right of access to a quality education is what is actually being violated.