Board takes final step to drop diversity in assigning students

Posted May 18, 2010
Updated May 19, 2010

Wake County Public School System

— After several last-ditch efforts to keep diversity a factor in deciding how to assign students to Wake County schools, the Board of Education voted Tuesday to adopt a controversial policy that moves away from the district's longstanding practice of busing.

A crowd of opponents jeered, shouting "Hey, hey. Ho ho. Resegregation has got to go," following the 5-4 vote that means the district will place students in schools based on where they live rather than socioeconomic status.

That, however, is still a long way off. A committee will work over the next 9 to 15 months on how to implement the policy.

Opponents, including the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have promised a legal fight. They argue that such a "racial discriminatory policy" will not only segregate economically disadvantaged students but also keep them from receiving the same quality of education as more advantaged students.

"Do not cause us to be segregated,” parent Jonica Rowland said.

Others have predicted that the community-based assignment model will create pockets of poverty and result in low-performing schools and high teacher turnover.

"What happens here is having and will have an impact on the national educational policy ," the Rev. William Barber said in a statement. "We will use every means of direct action, legal, political, in the streets and in the suites, to fight for a constitutional, diverse, high-quality education for every child."

Supporters, however, maintain segregation will not happen and that the plan will allow for more stability for students, allow for more parental involvement and give parents more choices.

Board member Carolyn Morrison, one of four board members who have consistently opposed the plan, asked the board to postpone action indefinitely rather than drop diversity.

Her suggestion was voted down 5-4, but Morrison asked later if the vote could cause the school system's application for federal funds for magnet school to be out of compliance with federal rules. She asked again that the vote be put off until board attorney Ann Majestic could review that question. That motion, too, was rejected.

Keith Sutton said he hoped to appeal to a different side of the board.

"All board members want what is best for children," he said. "What I do want to underscore is the need to have an assignment policy that is fair and inclusive."

No child should be left behind, regardless of race, income, location or needs, Sutton said. He added that diversity is not the cause of problems the system has, but it "is being blamed" and being eliminated.

Research shows that racially and economically diverse schools do better for students, he said.

Member Anne McLaurin said she opposed the policy, but would vote for it if an amendment said the system will not allow the policy to cause segregation, and no school would have greater than a 50 percent low-income population.

"We need to focus on all, all, all students," member John Tedesco said. The district has told some poor students they cannot go to their neighborhood schools, "and I don't think that's fair."

Tedesco earlier questioned the use of 50 percent rather than "60 percent or 52 percent" or another number.

Hill said a study of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools had shown that 50 percent was "about the break-even point" beyond which high-poverty schools could not have high student achievement.

Majestic cautioned that setting a race balance for schools could be seen as setting an illegal quota, and Sutton suggested changing the rule to no more than 50 percent "poor or minority" students.


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  • Alexia.1 May 20, 2010

    I don't really know what the PTA does or how it uses those funds, but I do know that I never used any PTA-funded anything when I was in school. The PTA never paid for books, pencils, paper, chairs, markers, or chalk. As I recall, PTA funds in my school were always used for things like sports jerseys or supplies (that would normally be paid by a kid or his parents) or extracurricular activities. One could debate at length whether those kinds of things are truly useful, but I certainly do not see those as vital to a good education.

    Now, let's assume that the PTA funds are used for something important in education. Who is giving the money for the PTA? Is it the parents or is it businesses? Nothing would stop students from selling things, getting donations from businesses, etc.

  • Pocataz May 20, 2010

    I think one of the issues is that although the base amount of money may be equivalent to other schools the additional funding from PTA or fundraisers would be different for what some are calling "poorer schools". That is something that would limit extra things the school could purchase or do.

    I do not believe in kids having to pass several schools to get to their school but also understand everyone will not be able to go to a school right up the street. I just want some stability! If we make a change lets please not change it again next year. Who is looking at how these constant changes are effecting kids performance in the classroom.

  • Alexia.1 May 20, 2010

    UPTOP, where I grew up makes no difference. I didn't grow up in isolation and riches, if that's what you're suggesting.

    My point was that money is collected for schools across the county and that money is then allocated based on the size of the school, not the wealth of the neighborhood. If that's not the case, then invite WRAL to do a news story on a school that looks garbage and I might believe you.

    Given that I assume that all schools in the county look, more or less, like all those I've visited over the years, I'd guess you will not find one that lacks similar books, tables, chairs, whiteboards/chalkboards, desks, etc. And that's what students need to learn, right?

    So, what's the issue? Are you trying to suggest a social problem with a neighborhood rather than focus on the educational facilities?

  • Tacoma4x4 May 19, 2010

    Therefore, one could argue that the new policies sole objective was to allow poor kids to be clumped together in even greater numbers. Not so great when you peel the onion back and see what's there, right?

    How does being poor affect your ability to get a good education, I was poor and got a good education, both through school and my parents because I chose to, and put myself through college...

  • UPTOP May 19, 2010

    Paulej: Where exactly did you grow up and go to school ? I agree that is how the money is suppose to be distributed, but that's not always the case, try leaving your world and visit the other side of town sometimes, everything you read or hear on the news, is not always correct !!

  • Alexia.1 May 19, 2010

    UPTOP, "It's sad that those in inner city schools don't have access to a good and equal Education as those in other neighborhoods."

    What in the world are you talking about? If there is a school in the county that does not have comparable chairs, equipment, books, etc., to the other schools in the county, then I'd agree with you.

    But, I don't think that's the case. If there is such a case, then educate me. As I understand it, the county collects property taxes across the entire county and then gives that money to the schools equally. So, all kids have the same access to the same educational resources.

  • Alexia.1 May 19, 2010

    mindofreason, as I understand it, the issue has to do with picking up a kid and dragging them across the county to go to school. That's pointless, wastes gas, cost more to pay drivers, fuel, etc. It certainly is a waste of a kid's time, too.

    And there are neighborhood schools. When I heard "neighborhood school", I interpreted that to be a school relatively close to me. It might be a bit too far to walk, but I can get to an elementary school, middle school, and high school within 15 minutes. So, any kid in my neighborhood out to be able to go those that are closest. If the school is full, then the next closest. I believe that's what people have in mind.

    Anyway, I'm definitely in favor of not needlessly shipping kids across the county. That's an insane policy.

  • UPTOP May 19, 2010

    I think the game plan all along was to see All students recieve the same if not equal Eduacation. It's sad that those in inner city schools don't have access to a good and equal Education as those in other neighborhoods.I don't know what intentions the Board had in mind, but they have to admitt the game plan has gotten everyones attention....

  • mindofreason May 19, 2010

    I love when I make a comment that no one has any good responses for! I would love to debate this point, because I have been saying this all along...This plan was never thought out. Wake County will never have truly neighborhood schools. Therefore, one could argue that the new policies sole objective was to allow poor kids to be clumped together in even greater numbers. Not so great when you peel the onion back and see what's there, right?

  • Tacoma4x4 May 19, 2010

    Personally I would prefer to attend a school with those in common with me, a school that is close, so this sounds good to me.. I live in a small community with a combination of three plus, small towns. Anyway my point is that there are only two high schools within my community where there is a large diversity of students from all around, poor, rich, same neighborhood, all races..etc. And I have found that these kids tend to separate themselves from other different kids anyway. They like having friends with something in common and form groups...some bad, some good, and having all these kids mixed together does not help with the fact that they get a good education, seems to be their choice in the long run....