New Jersey is known as a melting pot state, a rich tapestry of diversity. But a new report finds Garden state public schools are among the most segregated in the country.

Paul Tractenberg, the president of the Center for Diversity and Equality in Education, says the report finds 1 in 4 students in New Jersey attends a very segregated school. There are roughly 1.4 million students in New Jersey.

“This is the case in mostly the urban districts, where in many cases virtually all the students are either black or Hispanic, and a very high percentage of them are low income,” he said.

“We have a major continuing challenge of enormous proportions.”

Tractenberg pointed out we’re always talking about diversity in the Garden State but the reality is “New Jersey schools have been ranked for years as among the most segregated in the nation.”

“As you get closer and closer to what counts, to neighborhoods and schools and classrooms, we’re really been dreadfully segregated in a lot of particulars. We’re diverse overall and segregated where it counts, in the schools and in the classrooms.”

He notes all children are hurt by segregation.

“White children in important ways learn better when they’re in a diverse setting, when their values and mindset are challenged by people who have different values and mindsets.”

So why are Jersey schools so segregated?

Tractenberg said having 674 school districts in New Jersey means “we’ve divided the state into so many small units that they tend to be homogenous.”

He said while most urban schools are all black and Hispanic “there are many suburbs that don’t have a single low income student.”

He also pointed out we have many school districts that are either quite wealthy or very poor and so it creates a significant imbalance in resources.

To begin to solve the problem he suggested the stat consider “some pretty fundamental and, I understand, politically controversial changes in the way we function.”

The report also finds about 25 percent of New Jersey school districts are diverse and about half of the school districts are racially mixed to different degrees.

The report also finds about 45 percent of the public school student population in New Jersey is white, the black population is slightly higher than 15 percent, while the Hispanic and Asian populations are exploding at 27.5 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com