Wake school board members discuss assignment policy

Posted February 10, 2010 1:40 p.m. EST
Updated February 10, 2010 4:29 p.m. EST

— A Wake County Board of Education committee held the first of several meetings to discuss potential changes to its decade-old student assignment policy on Wednesday.

“We need to talk about student assignment in a way that's best for our students,” said board member Debra Goldman.

The school district assigns students so that no school has more than 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches. Students are reassigned each year to maintain that level, as well as to fill new schools and relieve overcrowding.

At least five of the school board's nine members have indicated that they plan to end the practice, which can involve busing students to schools farther from their homes, in favor of neighborhood schools.

Recently elected board member Deborah Prickett wants changes to help improve graduation rates among economically challenged and minority students, whom she said are suffering.

Board members who support the policy say changing the current plan in favor of neighborhood schools would disrupt diversity at schools.

"I don't want, maybe, teachers picking and choosing different schools because of the perception – real or imagined – that one school is a good school and one is not a good school," board member Kevin Hill said.

The state NAACP has also announced its opposition to ending the current policy.

NAACP president Rev. William Barber said that doing so would re-segregate schools and deny children their constitutional rights to a sound, basic education.

Instead, Barber is pushing for equity in funding, high-quality teachers and smaller class sizes, as well as more parental involvement.

The committee did not make a decision on Wednesday. Goldman said the discussion could continue for weeks or months before a recommendation is given to the full board.