Forum held for Wake Board of Education candidates – diversity policy takes center stage
Candidates running for Wake Co. Board of Education met Wednesday night for a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Wake County. Of the nine-member board, four seats are up for election this year and only one incumbent, Horace Tart, District 2, is running for re-election.
At issue was Wake County’s 2009-12 School Reassignment Proposal and subsequently the county’s school diversity policy.
The massive 25,000 student reassignment plan the school board issued in early 2009 caused a wave of protest from parents and local groups such as Take Wake Schools Back, Wake Schools Community Alliance (WSCA) and the Wake GOP. Unified on their opposition in having more students reassigned and bused to new, different schools, a concerted effort was undertaken to find, encourage and promote candidates backing a ‘local school’ option.
Proponents of ‘neighborhood schools’, ‘community schools’ or any other PC term designed to elicit the strongest response from supporters and those on the fence – are pushing for the option to send their children to the public school of their choosing, namely the closest school near their neighborhood. It boils down to this: well-to-do neighborhoods go to one school and poorer neighborhoods go to their own.
The only problem with that is the county’s school diversity policy.
As the nation’s 23rd largest school district and touted as one of the better school systems in the country – Wake’s commitment to socioeconomic diversity in the schools has long been viewed as critical to our success.
Neighborhood school supporters (namely those endorsed by the WSCA and Wake GOP) are supporting measures to do away with Wake’s diversity policy, constituting a major overhaul of the way our schools operate. If their campaigns are successful, the board would have a Republican majority and the needed votes for neighborhood schools.
If allowed, opponents to the neighborhood option fear Wake’s schools would become largely segregated, driving away teachers from those districts and driving down attendance, grades and test scores – all of which studies show occur when a school goes over 40% of students on free and reduced lunches.
Opponents to neighborhood schools (District 1 candidate Rita Rakestraw, District 2 incumbent Horace Tart, District 7 Karen Simon and District 9 Lois Nixon) however are doing their best to make sure that doesn’t happen.
As stated by Lois Nixon, “What we have now is a great system. We don’t need to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”
School board elections are in two and a half weeks on Tuesday, October 6.