State News

US schools chief criticizes Wake school board

Posted January 14, 2011

Wake County Public School System

— The nation's top education official on Friday joined a chorus of criticism targeting a decision last year by North Carolina's largest school district to end its busing for diversity program.

"America's strength has always been a function of its diversity, so it is troubling to see North Carolina's Wake County school board take steps to reverse a long-standing policy to promote racial diversity in its schools," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote in a letter to The Washington Post.

The federal education agency's Office for Civil Rights is investigating the board's decision, following a complaint filed with the department last year by the state chapter of the NAACP and other groups.

They allege that ending a policy in which some of the district's 140,000 or so students were bused to achieve socio-economic balance in the school district amounts to a rollback of civil rights-era changes that integrated the schools.

Duncan's three-paragraph letter didn't necessarily endorse that position, but it did urge other school boards to think twice before using Wake County's new policy as a model.

"I respectfully urge school boards across America to fully consider the consequences before taking such action," Duncan wrote. "This is no time to go backward."

Wake County school board member John Tedesco, one of the members who voted to end the policy in favor of allowing students to attend schools as close as possible to their homes, said he was disappointed by Duncan's letter.

Tedesco said he supports many of Duncan's ideas about improving public schools, and that he would have liked to speak with the federal education chief before Duncan went public with his criticism.

"If he actually saw the details of what's going on in Wake County, or had the opportunity to speak to some of the leaders in Wake County, I think he might have had a different tone, and maybe even been more receptive to the message," Tedesco said.

Last year's vote to end the decade-old busing for diversity policy began a round of protests, investigations, and bickering among board members that shows little sign of slowing.

Most recently, the board became embroiled in a dispute with AdvancED, a national accreditation agency that's investigating changes in the school system, including how the board reached its decision to scrap the diversity policy. Board members say the agency is overstepping its bounds.

Duncan's letter is the latest sign that Wake's once-stellar reputation for schools has become tarnished, according to Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, a citizens' group that has opposed many of the changes sought by the board.

"It's kind of a sad moment," she said. "A school system that used to get press for having the national superintendent of the year and being a stronghold for best practices is now getting written up for dismantling policies that maintained diversity in our school system."

13 Comments

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  • Timtooltime Jan 19, 2011

    How much money would the tax payer's save getting rid Arne's job ?

  • annemarek Jan 19, 2011

    Tax payers should be in charge of their own schools and not outsiders who claim to be experts. Not everyone is interested in diversity but minding their own business and keeping their kids close to home. Everyone else just keep from speaking ( can't use the word I want to use)

  • artgenos Jan 19, 2011

    i think one thing people have forgotten is that the new regime of the wake county school board came in with only one thing in mind, stop bussing. they voted to stop it, but had no plan to replace it. i can understand why no one wants others to model their school districts after us, we have done nothing but made a mess of our own. tedesco and his cronies originally stated that the wanted to stop bussing so kids did not have to travel so far. then they stated it was for better achievement scores and now they are stating it is because of the cost of bussing.

    they keep changing their reasons for doing this. they need to make a plan and make it transparent so everyone can see what is going on and make comments. the board does not have to make everyone happy, but at least try to. these secret meetings they have is not right. something else is going on here and it isn't for the kids.

  • mshood7 Jan 17, 2011

    Those who only see their self serving political rhetoric in order to restrict rather than give our children excellence in edcation should be ashamed. This board has already put many long and tedious hours in coming to the conclusion that so called "diversity' is not and has not served our children well. It's time to move on when we see the results of our broken education system based on race, long hrs busing with the criteria based upon race. It it time to stop this ill conceived program that only divides, designs and issues a watered down version or excuse for an equal opportunity education. NOT!

  • mshood7 Jan 17, 2011

    we must represent what is good and necessary for an excellent education and stop advancing on a system based on race... that HAS PROVEN TO DIVIDE AND DOES NOT WORK for every child's best interest. It simply must stop!

  • mshood7 Jan 17, 2011

    It should never be the cause of the Federal Govt to take sides on an issue that local and state govts have always voted and used vigerous debate and the majority whose voices have spoken. It's called the Majority vote! To those who use threats and intimidation, it didn't work then and it doesn't work now. In fact it's most unbecoming to a nation that prides itself on democracy and not theocracy or any ism' or ists words that belie those who seek to work for the good of ALL!

  • IndependentAmerican Jan 17, 2011

    Maybe the state should step in and, to help assure diversity, start bussing kids from poorer counties into Wake and vice versa. Can you see it - a parent in Wake county gets the notice that his/her child has been assigned to a school in Harnett Count to achieve diversity... What it boils down to is this; what is a better education model, local schools that encourage parental involvement, or county (state?) school systems that move kids around to meet some arbitrary balance of race / economic / cultural diversity?

  • mshood7 Jan 17, 2011

    I would like to salute Dr. MLK for his tenacity in leading the way to allowing "all" people to participate in the gov't of our country by way of democracy that up until the civil war was not visioned to present day. I also would like to take a stand against those who by election of the majority voters decided to stop the expansive and expensive busing used to social engineer children based on race. This is not and never has been constitutional. Just recently our school board has embraced education and equal opportunity for every Wake County child to receive the best education posible based on acheivment and participation and anything else should not be acceptable. Most of the participation in addressing the problems that diversity alone have has not accomplished for every child to receive a quality education are and have been addressed. In America, CHOICE, nor FORCE" should be the driving range for all children to learn. Those who would only see their self serving political rhetoric wh

  • Teachprinting Jan 17, 2011

    Stop abusing the teachers. The curriculum is being followed. Meetings are being held every week with every teacher and the topic is always the curriculum. Teachers knock themselves out to reach every student under trying circumstances at times. If you want to help volunteer in Middle or High School and experience education in the trenches or even better, get a teaching certificate and make a difference in someones life.

  • watchtheteachers Jan 17, 2011

    Before everyone starts flinging mud at everyone about race, etc., remember what all this is supposed to be for: Students to receive a better education. No matter where the students are being taught, the curriculum still has to be followed. It simply isn't. EOC's are being given without being taught. Ask a special education student....

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