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Lead from the Start: Get On the Bus! Or, not

Monday, October 12, 2009

Get On the Bus! Or, not

I just read about the political battle that raged recently in Wake County, one of the most highly acclaimed school systems in the country. I can't believe I am writing this but it is about busing. The county has a "diversity policy" that attempts to balance socioeconomic diversity among schools. Wake County has some full year schools. My friend Bill Ferriter teaches in one of them and he loves it. Opponents of the Diversity Policy are hoping to block efforts to require some students to attend full year schools involuntarily.

From WRAL news:

Wake aims to have no more than 40 percent of students any school receiving free or reduced-price lunches. The school system reassigns students every year to maintain that level of socioeconomic diversity, as well as to fill new schools and relieve overcrowding.

Diversity supporters said they fear area schools will become segregated if the policy is abandoned.

"If you have all low-income kids in a school, they have no power. They have no voice," Goodmon said. "We know exactly what will happen to those schools."

The policy has became a referendum in the local school board elections polarizing the constituency. Check out this video...What do you think?

Having taught in a school system that began busing (poorly) and ended busing (poorly) I have seen how neighborhood schools can support segregation. I have also seen concerted efforts by parents and the community can make a school diverse. It is not easy and I am not sure that we are really post-racial enough yet to let go of these types of policies that protect the underserved. However, I also believe choice is one of the most powerful engines of school reform. I am not talking about charter schools but choices like community over opportunity. Wake County is one of the best school systems in the country with the second highest number of National Board Certified Teachers in the country. So I guess if there is anywhere that could do it, let go of the supports of policies that address desegregation, then Wake County might be the place. Will Wake County take a step forward or a step back? Would doing away with the policy lead us into the post-racial era or trip us up in our progress toward a worthwhile goal? Maybe if the push to end the diversity policy were actually driven by a lack of its relevance I might be less cynical but I am afraid we will see the county make a slow shift back to what is comfortable instead of what is right.
3 of the 4 seats went to neighborhood school candidates. All of the contested seats went to candidates against the diversity policy.
There will be a run off for the District 2 seat next month between two neighborhood schools candidates.

Image: Courtesy Valentine Richmond History Center Virginia students oppose busing in the 1960s.

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At 10:06 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Um, "protect the undeserved..." Methinks you forgot an important "r" in there?

Nonetheless, the Wake County case is certainly one worth watching. Thanks for bringing it to the attention of your colleagues.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger j m holland said...

Thanks Jon. Thats why pre-k now makes me have an editor.

At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beth here:
See my article RE: Rock Hill. They implemented "voluntary mandetory" desegregation. One of the reasons that it worked was because of a shift in the way in which the board was elected. There were several other reasons for which it was believed that it was successful. It, too, was based on socioeconomic status.


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