Julia Sass Rubin, an associate professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and a founder of Save Our Schools NJ, here explains the ugly face of what is deceptively called “school reform” in New Jersey during the administration of Governor Chris Christie.

It would be more accurate, she writes, to say that Governor Christie has promoted a policy of “separate and unequal,” targeting children of color.

First, he imposed massive budget cuts that disproportionately harm children of color. She writes:

For example, the Paterson, Elizabeth, and Newark school districts combined lost over $300 million since 2010. If the New Jersey Supreme Court had not intervened in 2012 to restore some of the funding, the damage would have been even greater. Gov. Chris Christie also tried repeatedly to permanently alter the State’s school funding formula, to reduce funding for the almost 40 percent of New Jersey public school students who are low-income and/or Limited English Proficient.

Second, allowing schools that serve the neediest children to become unsafe and unsanitary. Rubin writes: Trenton High’s 1,800 students, and thousands of others, attend schools plagued by rats, roaches, asbestos, and black mold because the Christie Administration has all but frozen the work of the Schools Development Authority. The authority is charged by law with building and renovating public schools in the 31 former Abbott districts, while those school districts are precluded from repairing or rebuilding their dilapidated public schools.

Third: Suspending local control in districts where most students are children of color and subjecting these districts to years of state control, which facilitates privatization. The assumption behind this policy is that democracy is the problem; but the state’s lack of success demonstrates that poverty and segregation are the problems that the state refuses to address.

Fourth, the state is determined to get rid of public schools wherever possible, and replace them with privately-managed charter schools. The suburbs have staunchly resisted charters, which would weaken their public schools and divide their communities, so the state controlled districts have become the petri dishes for charters. Rubin points out that the charters have intensified segregation: The Christie administration “has ignored the fact that many of the charter schools are contributing to the segregation of students by income, language proficiency and race…New Jersey Department of Education 2012 – 2013 data shows that Hoboken’s three charter schools educate 31 percent of the City’s total public school students, but a significantly larger proportion of its white students (51 percent), and a significantly smaller proportion of its impoverished students (6 percent of the free lunch and 13 percent of the reduced lunch). The charter schools also educate none of the city’s Limited English Proficient students. Thanks to the charters, the remaining public schools are weakened by the concentrated enrollment of students with the greatest needs.

What is in store for New Jersey in another Christie administration?

A sustained assault on public education, especially in communities of color. More charter schools that skim off the highest-performing students and kick out those that don’t meet their standards. More segregation. The destruction of community participation and democratic governance in communities of color. The suburbs may think they are safe from these policies, but with a renewed mandate, they should expect to see budget cuts, and a redoubled effort to divide their communities by introducing charter schools.

Rubin concludes:

We know what is effective: addressing concentrated poverty; involving parents and communities in decision-making; providing adequate funding and healthy and safe facilities; ensuring access to high-quality pre-kindergarten and wraparound social services. The research is clear and consistent. We only need the political will to follow.

It is ironic that Governor Christie is so hostile to public education, inasmuch as he was educated in the state’s public schools. Even more ironic is that New Jersey has one of the top public school systems in the nation. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, New Jersey ranks second or third in the nation, along with Massachusetts and Connecticut, on tests of math and reading. If New Jersey took realistic and research-based steps to improve its poorest districts–like Camden, Paterson, and Newark–New Jersey would very likely rank first in the nation. Yet Governor Christie continues to badmouth the state’s good public schools and tear down urban public education with failed privatization policies.

The Christie administration will renew its attack on public schools across New Jersey. Join other parents to save public education in New Jersey.