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Garner High School Site Raises Issues of Busing, Race

Posted July 11, 2007

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— The dispute between the town of Garner and the Wake County Public School System over the site for a new high school has raised issues of busing, race and poverty.

Garner town leaders told the Wake County Board of Commissioners that they do not like a 72-acre site off East Garner Road for a new high school.

“This is not suitable site for a high school for a number of reasons,” said Hardin Watkins, Garner's town manager. Watkins spoke to the county commissioners when the site came up for their approval Monday night.

A concrete plant is across the street from the site, and traffic is already heavy on the two lane road leading to it, said Watkins.

Town officials also claimed that the Wake County's policy of busing low-income students from southeast Raleigh drives up the poverty rate in Garner schools.

A school's poverty rate is measured by the percentage of students who receive free or reduced priced lunches.

“People have asked me is this about race. I say it’s about the human race,” said Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams. “If Garner schools were treated equally, we’d have healthy percentages of (kids who receive) free and reduced lunches."

WCPSS officials said race is not a factor in deciding where to bus students and that busing is based on the percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

School officials said they aim to create “healthy schools,” where less than 40 percent of students receive free or reduced lunches. Officials said the school-system average is around 30 percent.

Town officials point to the fact that at six of the 11 Garner-area schools, 50 percent or more of students receive free or reduced priced lunches.

The town is considering filing suit against the Wake County Public School System after a recent Supreme Court ruling made it illegal to bus students based on race.

Garner officials said there’s an argument to be made that the school system’s policy of busing based on the free and reduced lunch rate amounts to busing based on race.

WCPSS officials said while they work to balance Garner schools according to the healthy school goal, it’s unfair to claim that southeast Raleigh neighborhoods alone drive up the poverty rate in Garner schools.

“It is true that Garner and eastern Wake County have higher percentages of affordable housing, which means you have a higher percent of low-income families,” says Chuck Dulaney, WCPSS's director of growth mangement.

As for the high school site, Garner town leaders said their main concern has more to do with location than assignment and that they are scouting for alternative sites.

WCPSS officials said if they hold off too long on the purchase of this site, they might miss out on a good deal.

Both sides said they expect to keep meeting about all of these issues.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • aquamama Jul 12, 2007

    "Ultimately the solution is for people not to have children until they are educated and financially able to take care of them. Cause I certainly am getting very tired of that job being forced on me."

    Steve, we all want an ideal world. However, it's never going to happen. Selfish people will always reproduce and then leave their children (and the other parent) high and dry. Try to get a job after having stayed home with the kids and being out of the workplace after 10 years. Even with a degree or two. Nope, not so easy.

  • Greyhound_Girl Jul 12, 2007

    ..and the parent not having transportation is a fallacy there (the buses don't run past the Poole Road Food Lion Shopping center. Evey parent in that neighborhood had a vehicle...most even had really 'snazzy' vehicle (tricked out). They could drive to any school function, anywhere, if they really wanted to. They chose not too...

  • poohperson Jul 12, 2007

    I just looked at 4 elementary schools in SE Raleigh- not Garner, and they are all magnet schools. Unless you remove the magnet status these kids have to apply to attend these schools. There are no/ or few regular elementary schools. If you remove the magnet status, as you saw earler this summer, the parents get upset about this too. You tell me what "neighborhood" school there is for these kids, and what land you are going to find to build one. Either they bus them, or they take away the magnet status from those schools. I personally think that we should get rid of magnet schools, but I also think you still need to draw some other kids to the area so you do not have schools with 70% FRL. Parents say they would be happy for their kids to go to the local neighborhood school, but once you remove that magnet status, the whole make up of the school, and teachers will change.

  • whatelseisnew Jul 12, 2007

    I find the apparent belief from many commentors that "poor" somehow equates to a stupid child and an uninterested parent or parents goes hand in hand simply astonishing. Poor has nothing to do with intellectual capacity or the desires of the parent. This entire practice is simply a set of excuses for the school system on which to blame their poor results. Equal access is just simply that: so long as there is not a practice where a person is prohibited from attending a given public school based on race, the law is being followed. Equal opportunity - that will never happen. In a given classroom there are lots of variables that affect the educational experience that takes place. I find this busing practice to be racist and harmful to all of our children. The system is busing people based on race; so they are violating the law by telling someone because of their skin color they can not go to their base school, which in some cases is better than where they are being sent.

  • Durham-Raleigh Jul 11, 2007

    If we're considering "The Bell Curve" to be a reputable and factual source, then there's really not much to debate. It's every bit as fringe as the tiny minority of (industry-funded) 'scientists' who claim that there's no evidence for global warming.

    Not that it stops folks from using it.

    And no, it really is the equal protection clause of the 14th, not the 15th Amendment.

    Interesting that others have taken the discussion of SES integration back to race. Steve, I'm just concerned about equal opportunities for impoverished white and Latino/a students as I am African-American students.

    Schools from deeply-poor areas do not typically have engaged parents/PTAs and lack community support. It's not "equal opportunity" for kids to get education in these institutions.

    And Steve, these children are not party to the decision to be birthed. They are born and they are members of our society and we are obligated -- legally, morally -- to educate them.

  • Scarecrow Cow Jul 11, 2007

    I don't blame Garner at all. I went to Southeast Raleigh High School and let me tell you, it was filled with some of the worst lowlife thugs you could ever imagine. No matter what kind of education you try to give them they aren't going anywhere but the projects.

  • poohperson2000 Jul 11, 2007

    Also consider, some day you may have a unforseen occurance and your child is now one of these FRL kids that you speak so ill of. What if you had to move to the projects? Nothing in life is a guarentee and it can happen to you.

  • poohperson2000 Jul 11, 2007

    I have an idea. Let's build a nice new beautiful school in SE Raleigh and bus the middle class kids of Garner to that school. They would not have to worry about the traffic (because you all make it seem like SE Raleigh is like living in Watts, so no one would dare go there), and the FRL ratio would lower at their schools.

    Now that I am done being sarcastic, how do you propose these kids go to neighborhood schools when NONE exist. Where will they find land? Maybe there is room next to the woman's correctional facility. Then these kids could visit Mom in jail after school. COME on people, these kids deserve a good education. If you feel have FRL kids is bring your schools down, then home school or go to private school. Give these kids a chance to be in a more positive environment.

  • Steve Crisp Jul 11, 2007

    To TruthBeKnown:

    That is called the doctorine of Separate But Equal. But closest school is not SBE. There is no forced segregation involved.

    To tawny:

    You hit the nail on the head, but with the wrong solution. The key to social integration is not to force it, but to provide the opportunities in education, economic status, social structure, and lack of redlining for blacks to move up the socio-economic strata. As the black community become more economically sound, they will move in random patterns just as whites now do. And within a generation, neighborhoods will pretty much all look the same.

    To lboyette:

    Ultimately the solution is for people not to have children until they are educated and financially able to take care of them. Cause I certainly am getting very tired of that job being forced on me.

    And kl:

    You are absolutely correct. Southeast Raleigh is notorious because that is where the forced housing projects were located. Outside of those areas, it is a nice place to live.

  • Steve Crisp Jul 11, 2007

    I think you were referring to the 15th Amendment, not the 14th. And I find both the 15th and BvBOE to be valid law. But BvBOE does NOT harken back to a time when kids merely attended the closest school. If you remember correctly, which you don't, what the suit corrected was forced segregation. Blacks no matter what neighborhood they lived in were forced to attend black-only schools.

    But there is significantly more racial and economic diversity among varied neighborhoods today than in 1954. Even what are considered "black" housing projects in Raleigh are 15 percent white. And by giving blacks the opportunity to actually get an education instead of a bus tour of Wake County, within a generation there will be even greater equity between races. That will result in more integrated neighborhoods throughout Raleigh which leads to greater integration in the schools. And don't even forget the two things that led to forced integration: redlining and mandatory segragation. They no longer exist.