Wake schools dispute gets national attention
Posted December 5, 2010 12:16 a.m. EST
Updated December 5, 2010 12:28 a.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — The leader of the national NAACP added his voice Saturday to those opposed to change in the Wake County Public School System. The North Carolina NAACP has been vocal in opposition to a policy change that would assign students to schools across the county based on geography rather than the district's decade-old policy which sought to balance individual student bodies so that no one school had a disproportionate number of low-income students.
Rev. William Barber, president of the state organization, is among those who have disrupted meetings of the Wake County Board of Education and been arrested in protest of the board's policy change.
On Saturday, Barber was joined at the podium by Benjamin Jealous, president of the national NAACP.
"We're here because Wake County is of national significance," Jealous said. "We have no intention of losing the battle here in Wake County."
Jealous offered legal and financial resources to the North Carolina chapter in their fight.
The speakers capped a two-day organizational conference in Raleigh with an announcement of plans for a protest march in Raleigh Feb. 12.
Barber he would “legally, politically, in the streets and in the suites, fight for a constitutional, diverse, high-quality education.”
Jealous said Wake County, once the "North Star" for diversity in student assignment, now risks resegregation.
Ron Margiotta, chairman of the school board, scoffs at the charge. “They’re (school board members) smart people. They know what they’re saying. And that (segregation) is not permitted by law, by court ruling.”
He said the old student assignment policy did nothing to help boost achievement for low-income students and court skirmishes and public protests don't help either.
Students and their parents pay the cost of the dispute, he said. "it's costing the taxpayers a lot of money in extremely tough budget times."