The Republican-dominated school board in Wake County, North Carolina has thrown out a policy meant to promote racial and socioeconomic diversity in Raleigh, prompting a complaint by the NAACP and an op-ed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan calling the decision “troubling.”The Washington Post reports that the school board has declared that they will “say no to the social engineers!” and abolish a policy that aimed to prevent schools in the area from becoming segregated by race or class.
Stephanie McCrummen writes that rather than assign students to attend the school closest to their home:
As white flight hit in the 1970s, civic leaders merged the city and county [of Raleigh] into a single district. And in 2000, they shifted from racial to economic integration, adopting a goal that no school should have more than 40 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, the proxy for poverty.
But as the county has boomed in recent years – adding as many as 6,000 students a year – poverty levels at some schools have exceeded 70 percent. And many suburban parents have complained that their children are being reassigned from one school to the next. Officials blame this on the unprecedented growth, but parents blame the diversity goal.
Art Pope, a GOP strategist on the board of the tea party group Americans For Prosperity, backed the decision to throw out the old policy: “If we end up with a concentration of students underperforming academically, it may be easier to reach out to them,” he told the WaPo “Hypothetically, we should consider that as well.”
But the NAACP thinks this new policy violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and filed a complaint in September with the DOJ and the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education.
“We must fight re-segregation and demand high-quality, constitutional, diverse, well-funded education for all our children,” said State NAACP President Rev. William Barber, WRAL.com reports. “We believe this kind of disparity is illegal and must be challenged.”
NAACP president Ben Jealous agreed: “The county deserves a plan that works. It has one. Let’s get back to that, so we can tackle the tough issues that still need to be dealt with.”
And in an op-ed published yesterday in the WaPo, Arne Duncan also opposed the decision: “America’s strength has always been a function of its diversity, so it is troubling to see North Carolina’s Wake County School Board taking steps to reverse a long-standing policy to promote racial diversity in its schools.”
“I respectfully urge school boards across America to fully consider the consequences before taking such action. This is no time to go backward,” he said.