Republican School Board nn N.C. Backed by Tea Party Abolishes Integration Policy
By Stephanie McCrummen
January 12, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. - The sprawling Wake County School
District has long been a rarity. Some of its best, most
diverse schools are in the poorest sections of this
capital city. And its suburban schools, rather than
being exclusive enclaves, include children whose
parents cannot afford a house in the neighborhood.
But over the past year, a new majority-Republican
school board backed by national tea party conservatives
has set the district on a strikingly different course.
Pledging to "say no to the social engineers!" it has
abolished the policy behind one of the nation's most
celebrated integration efforts.
And as the board moves toward a system in which
students attend neighborhood schools, some members are
embracing the provocative idea that concentrating poor
children, who are usually minorities, in a few schools
could have merits - logic that critics are blasting as
a 21st-century case for segregation.
The situation unfolding here in some ways represents a
first foray of tea party conservatives into the
business of shaping a public school system, and it has
made Wake County the center of a fierce debate over the
principle first enshrined in the Supreme Court's 1954
decision in Brown v. Board of Education: that diversity
and quality education go hand in hand.
The new school board has won applause from parents who
blame the old policy - which sought to avoid high-
poverty, racially isolated schools - for an array of
problems in the district and who say that promoting
diversity is no longer a proper or necessary goal for
"This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma, Alabama, in the
1960s - my life is integrated," said John Tedesco, a
new board member. "We need new paradigms."
But critics accuse the new board of pursuing an
ideological agenda aimed at nothing less than sounding
the official death knell of government-sponsored
integration in one of the last places to promote it.
Without a diversity policy in place, they say, the
county will inevitably slip into the pattern that
defines most districts across the country, where
schools in well-off neighborhoods are decent and those
in poor, usually minority neighborhoods struggle.
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