Clergy wants Wake board to wait on school assignment vote

Posted March 19, 2010 12:12 p.m. EDT

— A group of more than 20 ministers, priests and rabbis are calling on the Wake County Board of Education to postpone a vote next week having to do with a controversial community-based student assignment plan.

"We are convinced that the proposed changes of abandoning the current integration policies, however well-meaning they may be, do in fact lead to a re-segregation of our schools," the Wake County Clergy Coalition said in a news release Friday.

The school board voted 5-4 this month in favor of a resolution to begin plans to move away from the school system's policy of busing students to help ensure each school is socioeconomically diverse.

Board members want to implement community assignment zones, in which students go to schools closer to their homes.

Critics argue, in part, that it will segregate poor students and keep them from receiving the same quality of education as more economically advantaged students.

School board members, however, have insisted that they have no plans to segregate students and that student achievement is their top priority.

The coalition wants the board to delay its vote and study the issue and hear further from the community before making a final decision.

"Our (school system) can always be improved, and its problems need be addressed, but the current board’s rush to effect a major and historic change in policy is proving divisive and controversial in our community. This is not the right way to make policy and solve problems," it said.

If the resolution, as it currently reads, were approved on Tuesday, a student assignment committee would spend the next nine to 15 months developing an implementation plan based on input from the community, school system staff and other government planning and zoning officials.

The coalition has planned a candlelight vigil in protest of the vote. The Little Light of Mine Candlelight Vigil for Diversity in Our Schools is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. at Martin Street Baptist Church, 1001 E. Martin St., Raleigh.