Chamber leader touts Wake school diversity policy

With the Wake school board elections two weeks away, add Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce President Harvey Schmitt to those warning about the potential dangers of abandoning the diversity policy.

In an interview this morning on WPTF , Schmitt said the academic quality of the Wake school system helps the economic health of the region. While Schmitt said he understands why  people want neighborhood schools, he warned that abandoning the diversity policy would lead to pockets of economic decay and inequalities in property values.

Schmitt said that the resulting creation of high-poverty schools could lead to higher taxes to provide more assets to those schools. He said that's what happened in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Does the argument sound familiar yet?

Schmitt acknowledged that the funding gap between Wake and CMS has shrunk because of the recession. But he said the $34 million cut that CMS took this year shows the "very slippery slope" of trying to provide enough resources to high-poverty schools.

Schmitt also pointed to the visits that the Chamber sponsors to other communities. He cited last year's visit to Nashville as an example of how poor schools cause people not to live in the county where they work.

"Whenever we go to other schools, the reality is we're going to outperform those districts in nearly every aspect," Schmitt said. 

No specific candidates were mentioned this morning and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce doesn't officially endorse candidates. The group is one of the sponsors, along with the Wake Education Partnership and the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce, of Tuesday's District 7 school board candidate forum .