RALEIGH — Wake County school board members on Tuesday approved a redrawing of their nine voting districts - amid Republican promises that the three Democrats in opposition would like any revised map even less.
Democratic board member Carolyn Morrison joined four Republicans in passing the map designed by Raleigh lawyer Kieran Shanahan.
Districts are legally required to be roughly comparable in size. But they had become unbalanced during a decade of rampant growth.
The redistricting is important because candidates can be voted on only by the people who live in their district. And the new lines will be put to use Oct. 11, when five board seats are on the ballot.
The election will determine whether the state's largest school district continues toward neighborhood schools, or moves back toward the use of socioeconomic diversity in student assignment.
The diversity debate has led to heated protests, arrests, a civil rights investigation and the possible loss of accreditation for Wake's high schools.
On Tuesday, during a school board work session, Democrats Anne McLaurin, Keith Sutton and Kevin Hill asked for at least one alternative to the districts drawn up by Shanahan.
Republican John Tedesco and others, however, said any changes in the map might not be minor. "It's possible to create one district inside the Beltline of 100,000 people," Tedesco said.
That hypothetical concentration of Democrats mostly in Raleigh's older neighborhoods would have made continued Republican leadership of the board more likely.
A GOP majority has controlled the board since four party members won fall elections in 2009. Once in power, they led the push to end the diversity-based assignment policy.
McLaurin suggested that the redistricting process wasn't well handled and should be re-examined in future years. "It was a difficult process for all of us," she said.
But board Chairman Ron Margiotta called it the most nonpartisan redistricting plan possible for the county.
Earlier Tuesday, the state NAACP urged the school board to reject the proposed map.
In a news release, the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, questioned the motives and methodology of the maps.
Shanahan, whose firm prepared the map is a prominent GOP lawyer and former Raleigh City Council member.
"We deplore this latest effort to consolidate resegregation, and we respectfully ask the superintendent to work with us and other organizations who want the best for our children - high quality, diverse, constitutional schools," Barber said.
It's the latest in a long line of complaints that the state NAACP has had with the school board. The NAACP filed the civil rights complaint being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education into whether eliminating the use of socioeconomic diversity in student assignment was racially discriminatory.
Shanahan defended the map Tuesday during the school board meeting. "I feel comfortable we have submitted a proposal that meets all the guidelines," he said.
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