Local News

Schools debate points spotlight on Wake

Posted July 22, 2010 4:56 p.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2010 7:20 p.m. EDT

The debate over the Wake County Board of Education's decision to no longer consider socio-economic diversity when assigning students to schools has attracted national attention that some say could affect future growth locally.

On Thursday, school board member John Tedesco and state NAACP President William Barber went head-to-head on CNN about the issue. Entering the term "Wake school debate" into Google's search engine yields 714 news articles, including coverage by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

"I think there's an honest risk to both the image of the school system and to Wake County," said Harvey Schmitt, president and chief executive of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.

Realtor John Wood said he has already fielded calls from families looking to move to Raleigh about the school diversity dispute.

"I think the fear right now is there's no understanding of what is the plan for moving forward," Wood said.

The uncertainty is similar to the caveat he used to have to give to new residents about school assignments in the fast-growing district.

"Probably the hardest conversation real estate agents have with their clients is trying to explain to them (they) might have to change schools within a year or two," he said.

Still, he said, he sold three houses this week to people moving to Wake County from outside the area.

"None of them were required to move here with their jobs. All chose to come here because of the quality of life," he said.

Schmitt said the unrest presents another concern – in addition to the slow economy – to companies contemplating a new operation or an expansion in Wake County.

"It's rational and reasonable to expect that people making decisions about the area are going to ask, 'How does that affect me?' and 'Is it something I'm willing to buy into?'" he said.