Monday, August 24, 2015

What's the question; what's the answer?

In 2009, the parents of Wake County spoke. They elected a majority on theWCPSS School Board who supported the 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 impact on the education of the poor students targeted for those long distance assignments. After a few immediate and key resignations and retirements, many doors were opened to the changes needed in our school system.

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 in their attempt to create a school system that was responsive not critical.

But that didn’t last long.

Some were outraged at the very thought of removing diversity as a goal in assignment. They did all they could to create and spread fear around our community of what could happen. 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 just last week the N&O published in an article that states the number of high-poverty schools has more than doubled under the direction of the new School Board? Let that sink in….more than doubled – from 18 to 46. Twelve WCPSS schools now have populations of more than 70% low-income students. There were none under the ’09 Board.

The current School Board has had five years to undo the changes they deemed as “destructive” and “racist” and yet have chosen to do absolutely nothing. Not only have they not taken any action on the changes made back in ’09, their inaction and apathy have done more to make their fears a reality than anything else. And their friends - who raised a ruckus and feigned concern about the “loss” of diversity - are now silent and uninterested because their Democratic friends are faithfully leading the charge.

Or are they?

The N&O editorial this past weekend addresses this issue. It questions these numbers but it totally misses 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 only serves 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?” It’s a tough question with many answers and just as many opinions. I agree that we are at a crossroads as a county and community. But diversity is not it. There are so many others ways to improve education and address the needs of our students than assignment. There are better conversations to have. 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 they claimed they were against, we simply can’t let the diversity pendulum swing completely back.