Regarding the Aug. 23 editorial “In Wake County, a school crisis and a choice about our direction”: In 2009, the parents of Wake County spoke. They elected a majority on the WCPSS school board who supported an end to the mindless reassignment of their children. These school board members bravely broke the mold after decades of diversity busing – busing that not only adversely affected the education of suburban students but was eventually proven by WCPSS itself to have no positive effect on the education of the poor students targeted for those long-distance assignments.
After a few immediate and key resignations and retirements, the assignment policy was amended. Diversity goals were removed. An emphasis was placed on the educational needs of students and the involvement of parents. After years of mandatory year-round assignments and families split by school calendars, choice was resurrected.
The ’09 school board members ran on a platform of providing the necessary resources to students – not busing students for diversity under the guise of a better education. Their policies promoted stability, community involvement and predictability in assignment. But that didn’t last long. Some county residents were outraged at the very thought of removing diversity as a goal in assignment. They painted their own message in the media of resegregation and the isolation of minorities.
In 2011, a new majority-Democratic board was elected to save and restore diversity. So how is it that the number of high-poverty schools has more than doubled from 18 to 46 under the direction of the new school board? Twelve WCPSS schools now have populations of more than 70 percent low-income students. There were none under the ’09 board.
The current school board has had three years to undo the changes it deemed “destructive” and “racist” and yet has chosen to do nothing. Not only have members not acted on the changes made in ’09, their inaction and apathy have done more to make their fears a reality than anything else.
Your editorial questioned the numbers but totally missed the mark. The question we should be asking is not, “Do we pursue diversity or do we let segregation return?” That is a lazy, simple-minded question and serves only to create the same fearful rhetoric we heard years ago. What we should be asking is, “What can we do to improve education for every child in Wake County?”
I agree that we are at a crossroads as a county and community. But diversity is not the answer. There are so many others ways to improve education and address the needs of our students than assignment. Our crossroads is ensuring we don’t go back to the way it was. Although our current school board has managed to create a school system that reflects exactly what it claimed it was against, we simply can’t let the diversity pendulum swing completely back.
The writer was campaign manager for former school board chairman Ron Margiotta during his failed 2011 re-election bid. The length limit was waived.