Segregated: Center for Cooperative Media co-hosts discussion about segregation in NJ schools
NJ Spotlight News, WNYC, and Chalkbeat Newark presented the event as part of the ‘Segregated’ collaborative reporting project
The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University was proud this week to co-host an important community event in partnership with WNYC, Chalkbeat Newark, and NJ Spotlight News on the state of segregation in New Jersey schools. Held at the Newark Public Library, the event featured two panels that explored the realities of segregation in Newark schools, as well as potential solutions.
The discussion was part of “Segregated,” an ongoing reporting collaboration with news organizations across New Jersey examining segregation in the state’s education system, both on a statewide basis and in individual cities and towns.
The first panel was moderated by Michael Hill, host of WNYC’s Morning Edition, who led a discussion with Colleen O’Dea, NJ Spotlight News data reporter, and Dr. Charles Payne, director of the Joseph Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Research and co-author of the report, “Segregated Schooling in New Jersey.”
The panelists discussed sobering data showing that New Jersey has some of the most segregated schools in the nation, with non-white students increasingly clustered in certain districts and schools.
Dr. Payne explained that both racial segregation and economic segregation contribute to fewer opportunities for minority students in areas like access to quality curriculum, teachers, and resources. The panelists discussed the complexity of addressing segregation given the local control structure of New Jersey’s schools.
The second panel gave a human face to the data, moderated by Chalkbeat Newark’s Jessie Gomez and centering the experiences of Newark students in the city’s schools with respect to the quality of education, representation and school culture.
Yvette Jordan, chair of the Newark Education Workers Caucus and Mark Comesañas, executive director of My Brother’s Keeper Newark, talked with Newark Public Schools alumnus Christian Martinez and Newark Public Schools student David Allen.
The panelists shared their powerful experiences working in and attending New Jersey schools where Black and brown students receive inferior resources and facilities compared to whiter, wealthier schools.
They called for more funding, updated curriculums, and opportunities like college credit programs to be expanded to all schools, not just those serving more affluent students. The educators on the panel emphasized the need for cultural competency training for teachers as well as an integrated, equitable approach to education policy that puts students’ needs first.
During the audience Q&A portion, community members expanded the conversation to address issues like charter schools, school leadership, and the role of race, class, and power in shaping unequal education policies.
Several audience members called for new systems of accountability and oversight for education spending and results. Overall, there was clearly a shared sense that solutions require political courage at the state and local levels as well as community organizing.
The Center for Cooperative Media was proud to collaborate with our “Segregated” reporting partners to cohost this important public dialogue on such a critical issue.
We believe that improving cooperation and information-sharing between journalists, policy experts, educators, students and community members is imperative to drive understanding, accountability, and progress on systemic inequities like school segregation.
Part of our mission at the Center to grow and strengthen the local news ecosystem in the Garden State, is to bring crucial context and community voices into the public conversation on topics impacting New Jersey residents’ lives.
Last night’s event was an important step toward that goal, but much work remains to be done.
📸 View the photos from last night’s event: via Joe Amditis and Lou Hochman.
About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a primarily grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with operational and project funding from Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, NJ Civic Information Consortium, Rita Allen Foundation, Inasmuch Foundation and the Independence Public Media Foundation. For more information, visit centerforcooperativemedia.org.