Documentaries

Focal Point: 'Where the Bus Stops'

Posted April 21, 2010
Updated September 16, 2014

Original air date: Tuesday, April 27, 2010

School Bus Focal Point: Where the Bus Stops

Leaders in public education from around the country have praised the Wake County Public School System for its efforts to create schools that are racially and economically diverse.

The school system, which is the largest in the state, has used magnet schools, busing and student reassignment to accomplish this diversity. The idea is to avoid schools with high concentrations of poor, minority students where student performance is typically lower and where experienced teachers are difficult to recruit and retain.

Educators also say children from low-income families do better academically in schools with middle- and upper-middle class students without hurting the performance of those students.

But many Wake County parents say the diversity policy has gone too far and tramples on the rights of many parents to choose what’s best for their own children.

Their anger fueled a political movement that, in November 2009, elected a new majority to the school board. That majority is working to end assigning and busing students for diversity.

The move has angered educators, business leaders, civil rights activists and many parents who say dismantling the county’s diversity policy will cause schools to become racially segregated once again. They say that will damage Wake County’s nationally recognized school system.

Focal Point: “Where the Bus Stops” looks at how Wake County’s school system and its diversity policy works, why it was created, what impact it has had and the battle to dismantle it. It also looks at the politics behind the school board election and the claims of new school board members and parents who say the diversity policy isn’t working, violates their rights and does little to help low-income, under-achieving students.

Web Extra: Q&A

John Tedesco has established himself as the spokesman for the new majority on the school board and leading advocate for a community-based school assignment system.

Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, has led the vocal opposition to a change in student assignment, claiming that community-based schools would lead to re-segregation of the student body.

Both men talked to WRAL for Focal Point: "Where the Bus Stops."

Tedesco: Why did you run for the school board?

Tedesco: What’s wrong with Wake County’s current diversity policy?

Tedesco: What’s your plan?

Tedesco: How do you answer claims that change will lead to racial segregation?

Barber: What will happen to Wake County Schools without its diversity policy?

Barber: What is the legal case against scrapping the diversity policy?

Barber: Why do you compare this controversy to the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s?

Barber: Don’t the new board members have to carry out the wishes of the people who elected them?

Host: Gerald Owens
Writer/Producer: Clay Johnson
Photographer/Editor: Jay Jennings

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  • big red tractor Apr 27, 2010

    A big thanks to everyone at WRAL and especially those that worked on this episode of Focal Point. Definitely one of the best so far.