Mission Statement and History of CDEE

As its name suggests, CDEE, the Center for Diversity and Equality in Education, is committed to carrying out high quality and independent research, policy analysis and advocacy to promote the twin values of diversity and equality in the public schools of New Jersey and the rest of the nation. Its goal is to participate actively and directly in changing the lived reality for students, not just to provide research and policy analysis to enable others to do so.

Although CDEE is a new non-profit entity established by Professor Paul Tractenberg in January 2016, it builds upon a long history and a rich legacy. Its most direct antecedent is the Institute on Education Law and Policy at Rutgers-Newark (IELP) established by Professor Tractenberg in September 2000, and directed or co-directed by him until December 31, 2015 when he retired from full-time teaching at Rutgers Law School in Newark and became a professor emeritus. Indeed, CDEE’s signature project, the one focused on the Morris School District, was launched under the auspices of IELP and still has some Rutgers connections.

Of course, the roots of CDEE are much deeper than that. Ever since he joined the Rutgers Law School faculty in July 1970, Professor Tractenberg’s professional life has been focused on using high quality research, policy analysis and advocacy to improve the educational opportunities of New Jersey’s and the nation’s at-risk students, especially those living in poor urban school districts. His two primary focal points have been equalizing the funding of those urban school districts and desegregating the schools in whatever ways could feasibly work, including district consolidation.

In the case of the former, Professor Tractenberg has been involved in New Jersey’s almost five decade long effort in the courts through Abbott v. Burke and, before that, Robinson v. Cahill. Early in that effort in 1973, Professor Tractenberg established and was the first director of the Education Law Center, which has represented the student plaintiffs in Abbott since the case was initiated in 1981.

In the case of school desegregation, Professor Tractenberg has considered the 1971 decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court in Jenkins v. Morris Township School District, which paved the way to the merger of the Morris Township and Morristown districts, to be a decision of enormous importance.  Ever since then, he has wanted to launch a project studying the history, evolution, current status, and larger impact of that merger. CDEE’s Morris Project is the realization of that desire. Earlier, between 1985 and 2002, Professor Tractenberg sought, with considerable success, to apply Jenkins to the case involving the Englewood, Englewood Cliffs and Tenafly school districts.

Since CDEE was established, it has been fortunate to receive generous financial support from the Fund for New Jersey, the Ford Foundation, the Morris Educational Foundation, the Mills Foundation and a number of individual donors. The Center's fiscal sponsor is Save Our Schools New Jersey. It has been fortunate in another respect—the ability to engage highly qualified and deeply motivated staff including an experienced lawyer, education faculty, several post-doctoral and doctoral students, and a corps of law students.