Government Sponsored Diversity Causes Segregation in School District

August 25, 2011  |  

by Cynthia Wright

The Wake County School District in Raleigh, North Carolina is still making headlines due to its proposed plan to restructure the school zones. The thoughts fueling the actions didn’t happen overnight, since those that believed there should be a needed “shift” in diversity goals happened to become involved with the school board. It also doesn’t help matters much that the seats of the board are comprised mostly of Tea Party supported Republicans – who have a less-than credible track record when it comes to anything involving diversity or those in poorer communities.

In 1954, when Brown v. Board of Education was passed, it symbolized that diversity and quality education should go together – in this modern age, Wake County is attempting to refute that entire sentiment.

When talks of “rezoning” the schools were first introduced late last year, it sparked a discussion, examining whether the issue was about racial equality or more about certain families wanting their children to attend schools closer to their homes.

“This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s – my life is integrated, If we had a school that was, like, 80 percent high-poverty, the public would see the challenges, the need to make it successful. Right now, we have diluted the problem, so we can ignore it,” Board member John Tedesco explained to the Washington Post.

Even though the controversy is still brewing, Superintendent Tony Tata and his staff have spent the better part of the year (with an end date in October) trying to develop a plan that will be as “fair” as possible for the district’s students enrolled in the 2012-13 school year.

The developing plan that Tata is proposing states that parents will be able to choose from several nearby schools, along with one magnet and one “achievement” school.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well with everyone on the board. Board Chairman Ron Margiotta has come out against the plan due to its heavy reliance on achievement schools as a way to even out the educational opportunity for all students. “I have a problem with setting aside any seats for achievement. It’s substituting achievement for race, or economics. It’s sad if we say that every school in the county is not an achievement school. Some of the schools in my district are non-achieving, and I want to know why.”

At the same time, no one has bothered investigate why certain schools are performing better than others, relying on the separation of schools by socioeconomic class won’t address the problem. At the end of the day, the students that are going to be impacted by the policies being developed are those in the poorer communities – which, are primarily made up of minorities that can’t afford quality housing. With 10% of the population living in poverty, no one appears to be advocating extensively for those that will be affected the most and it is rather difficult to believe that anyone on the board truly will. Leaving some to believe that unless the board’s political and racial makeup changes (5 of the seats are up for reelection) Wake County government-sponsored diversity will soon be completely in the past.

Cynthia Wright is an avid lover of all things geeky. When she isn’t freelancing, she can be found on her blog BGA Life and on Twitter at @cynisright.

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