The school district in Wake County, North Carolina has been working for over 10 years on a novel idea: improving the quality of the education in their district by balancing the school populations using economic criteria. The school board had felt that rather than try to achieve racial integration, they would work on economic integration. The idea is that poverty is shown to be a major determiner of educational success, and if the poverty level at each school could be kept below a specific level, all students would benefit.
And in general, this has worked. But in the last few years, there has been a huge influx of students into the district. This has resulted in frequent school reassignments for some students to keep the poverty levels of the schools in balance. This has, of course, raise the ire of parents. But rather than look for ways to minimize these changes, a newly elected school board wants to go back to the old way – let the poor kids all go to school together. From the Washington Post:
Following his guidance, the GOP fielded the victorious bloc of school board candidates who railed against “forced busing.” The nation’s largest tea party organizers, Americans for Prosperity – on whose national board Pope sits – cast the old school board members as arrogant “leftists.” Two libertarian think tanks, which Pope funds almost exclusively, have deployed experts on TV and radio.
Things have not gone smoothly as the new school board has attempted to define its vision for raising student achievement. A preliminary map of new school assignments did not please some of the new majority’s own constituents. And critics expressed alarm that the plan would create a handful of high-poverty, racially isolated schools, a scenario that the new majority has begun embracing.
To be sure, there are some legitimate concerns about kids getting bounced around school. Consistency is a key element to a successful education program, and moving kids from school to school does not create that consistency. But the plans being put in place will serve to isolate students, creating schools in racial islands, with fewer resources and less diversity.
Is this the segregation of the 50s and 60s? Not yet. But it’s not a big step away from it either.