Wake schools diversity issue takes center stage again

Posted July 19, 2010
Updated July 21, 2010

— The line is drawn over the student assignment debate in the Wake County Public School System, and both sides are expected to meet Tuesday in what's been advertised as a move to stop segregation and promote diversity. 

On one side, there's a number of people, including civil rights, church and civic leaders, who believe the school board's move away from a decade-long policy of busing students will segregate schools and create pockets of poverty.

Rev. William Barber 07/14: Barber banned from Wake school property

Changing the policy, they believe, will result in basically two school systems – one for the haves and one for the have-nots. That, they say, would violate every student's constitutional right to an equal education.

On the other side of the line, there is a number of people who support the board's controversial decision to move to a community-based assignment model, where students would be place in schools closer to where they live.

Advocates for the policy say it not only gives parents more choices for where their children go to school but that it also will allow more parents to be involved in their education.

The school board majority says the system now in place doesn't work when it comes to student achievement, and that the change is needed.

Members have insisted that they won't let schools be resegregated.

On Tuesday, the state NAACP, several local churches, civil rights groups and hundreds of people from Wake County and beyond plan to take the streets in downtown Raleigh and march from the Raleigh Convention Center to the State Capitol to make sure their concerns are heard.

Many of those people aren't even from Wake County – people like Gail Miller, of Louisiana, who's in town this week for a convention of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Churches.

"I don't like the idea of them segregating the schools again," Miller said Monday. "That's just not right."

For weeks – since state NAACP President Rev. William Barber and three others were arrested on charges of disrupting a school board meeting – opponents of neighborhood schools have been drumming up support for Tuesday's 10 a.m. march.

NAACP leaders say they welcome the support from outsiders.

"We think that the total community, the extended community, should be able to know what's going on," said Alonzo Braggs, with the Wilson branch of the state NAACP.

Also mobilizing, are supporters of the school board's policy.

The Wake County Republican Party is asking supporters to show up for Tuesday's school board meeting to show continued support for the board majority, four of whom were elected last fall on platforms that they would move in and bring change to the school district.

"This is simply just to show the new school board members our support and our thanks," said Donna Williams, with the group, North Wake Republicans. "We are very excited they're doing what they said they would do."

Williams says that the school system's record of student achievement isn't one that's helping students – one reason supporters and the board majority say a change in student assignment is needed.

"Fifty-four percent of minority students do not graduate. That's a failing grade. I don't think we're serving these kids as well as we could be," Williams said. "I don't see it as the mark of a successful program."

The school system currently bases student assignment on the number of students in a school who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, which are federally subsidized and depend on family income.

The goal is to keep that percentage below 40 percent, but proponents of the new assignment policy point to studies that say the policy in place now has actually increased the number of schools with high percentages of students receiving free and reduced lunches.


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  • aintbackingdwn Jul 21, 2010

    Fat boy needs to go back to Wayne county. Most of these demonstators are troublemakers and don't even have children in the WCPPS much less live in and pay Wake county taxes. I noticed Barber can shove his finger in peoles faces and bang his fist on the podium then coward and acts like a 100 year OLD MAN limping and walking with a cane to gain sympathy for the TV audiance as the police take him away.

  • johnwral Jul 21, 2010

    josephlawrence43: you seem to be making the assumption that the parents in question have a computer at home. Or are we assuming they go to the public library and wait for one of the computers to become free? Say, how do you feel about funding public libraries so they put in more computers?

  • Tawny Jul 20, 2010

    Neversurrender, Racial diversity has never been the "single-minded" focus of WCPSS. The primary focus has been on educating students to be successful in a global economy.

    Last time I checked the "global economy" was pretty diverse!

  • josephlawrence43 Jul 20, 2010

    johnwral: as a teacher--parental involvement depends entirely on just how interested in a child's education the parent is, and how involved the parent is in the childs life otherwise. I receive emails from parents serving in Iraq and Afghan on a regular basis trying to keep up with their childs progress. No parents that I know of around here have people shooting at them.

  • johnwral Jul 20, 2010

    Oh, and on the "parental involvement" thing. How many of the people here saying parents should be more involved have a spouse who doesn't work or works part-time (and more than one kid, for that matter)? Try getting "involved" when you work two jobs.

  • johnwral Jul 20, 2010

    "Chapel Hill has a community school DISTRICT within Orange County without complaint."

    I used to live in Chapel Hill; I can speak to this, I think. First, Chapel Hill has beaucoup racial diversity. Second, the CHCCS school district is funded by a special tax grandfathered in for about a century, and until the Orange and CHCCS districts get equal funding, they won't merge. That extra tax funding a top-notch school system is the reason for the sky-high real estate prices in Chapel Hill, so just stepping in and cutting the tax will actually reduce real estate values, something current homeowners in Chapel Hill will probably not be in favor of. Chapel Hill is a special bubble, you can't draw conclusions from it.

  • BWWHAAT. Jul 20, 2010

    "Fifty-four percent of minority students do not graduate. That's a failing grade. I don't think we're serving these kids as well as we could be,"

    Something else needs to be done, let the school board do its job to figure it out. Why does the NAACP try to step in a mess it up, picketing all downtown is doing nothing but wasting your time and effort. The school board seems to have a genuine interest in getting the numbers up so let them do it. NAACP is a great organization but sometimes they don't realize they are doing more harm than good, for their own cause. Stop embarrassing yourselves.

  • wakemom Jul 20, 2010

    this is all black vs white and it is obvious with today's event scheduled to take place. you have those that are opposing (mainly blacks) marching form the convention center to the school board. and you have the republicans (mainly whites) that are pushing for them to get to wake forest rd ahead of time to get as many tickets as possible to take up all the seats. what happened to people coming to find a company ground? are the people listening to the kids? if you listened you will see that it doesnt bother the kids as much as it has divided the parents. do what is right for the kids. stop trying to be seen!

  • NotFromHere Jul 20, 2010

    These people are just doing this for their own noteriety. Most of those arrested at the last school board meeting are not even residents of Wake County, don't pay taxes to Wake County, don't send their children to school in Wake County. So why should they have any standing at a Wake County school board meeting. You should have to show that you are a resident of Wake County to be able to speak at a Wake County school board meeting.

  • HMMM Jul 20, 2010

    Durham does not seem to have the same problems as Wake. The public schools are pretty economically and racially diverse.