Education

Groups to rally at Wake schools meeting

Posted July 18, 2010 7:25 p.m. EDT
Updated July 18, 2010 10:59 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— Leaders of the NAACP and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Churches of the Eastern District continue to encourage other civic, religious, parent and student groups to take part in a mass demonstration Tuesday against the Wake County Board of Education’s planned policy change that they say will lead to resegregated schools.

“It's important for the community, for the public, if they do not support the school board policies, to continue to voice their opinions,” Yevonne Brannon, chair of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, said Sunday.

Great Schools in Wake Coalition is among the groups protesting the school board’s decision earlier this year to move away from a system where students are bused to help balance socio-economic diversity across the district in favor of assigning students closer to home.

The school system currently bases diversity calculations 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.

Before the mass demonstration Tuesday, the Wake County Republican Party is asking supporters of the board's policy change to show up and get first-come, first-serve vouchers for the board’s meeting.

Claude E. Pope Jr., chairman of the Wake County Republican Party, said getting a voucher and attending the meeting is a way to show continued support for the board majority, which pushed forward the policy change.

“Our protest really was in October of 2009 when we showed up at the polls and elected this board,” Pope said.

Those who wish to attend the school board meeting must claim a voucher for seating Tuesday at the system's Administration Building, 3600 Wake Forest Road.

The school board recently began using tickets to control crowd size at its meetings. However, some say the voucher system could prevent people from voicing their opinions on the board's policy change.

“Everyone needs to have a chance to attend the meeting. I'll be disappointed if there's not enough seats for the public that show up,” Brannon said.

Wake school board Chairman Ron Margiotta said the school system has hired four off-duty police officers in anticipation of demonstrations Tuesday. The board is also consulting with Raleigh police about additional security.

(WRAL.com will provide live video of the Wake school board meeting Tuesday.)

The Wake school system's assignment plan now in place became a national model for districts looking to achieve balance in student populations without violating a 2007 Supreme Court decision that limits the use of race in how students are assigned.

The five board members who voted to end the policy argue there are better ways to achieve diversity in schools. They favor keeping Wake's nearly 140,000 students as close to home as possible.

Other board members point to studies that say the old socio-economic policy actually increased the number of schools with high percentages of students receiving free and reduced lunches.