An Education in Black and White: Students in North Carolina Face Segregation
1 year ago
Tea Party-influenced school board in Raleigh, NC reverse their district’s segregation policies.
Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Little Rock Nine all held a hand in ending our country’s staunch segregation laws. Fast forward to today: While signs for “Coloreds Only” and “Whites Only” no longer hang over doors and water fountains, our country’s strides in desegregation are being threatened.
The Wake County School Board in Raleigh, North Carolina reversed several successful school diversity initiatives over the course of a few months -- diversity initiatives that heightened student achievement. This came as a result of the successful placement of Tea Party activists on the school board. Progressive organizations like The Brave New Foundation have reported that conservative billionaires the Koch brothers have funded campaigns that have led to the dismantling of desegregation policies.
The Wake County elections are an example of how conservative as well as neo-liberal reformers are backing candidates that either seek to eliminate government-sponsored diversity or who have de-prioritized diversity in lieu of their student achievement benchmarks.
Small-government, neighborhood advocacy groups do not see a role for the school board in establishing social policy. New age reformers seek to infuse new human capital with little regard for drawing people from the communities they serve.
Ultimately, the black and brown students who are directly impacted by these policies belong to families who are not represented (physically or politically) within these organizations’ agendas. Consequently, the education diversity goals that were established in Brown v. Board are systematically being abandoned. In other words, the poor are bad enough to be subjected to these agendas and not good enough to implement them.
Wake County seemed to find a solution to an age-old problem. For decades, per-pupil funding driven by property tax contributions led to disparate funding levels between districts. Because of the correlation between race and poverty, urban districts became intensely black, brown and poor. Highlighted in the landmark Brown v. Board decision, we know that socioeconomic diversity and school quality are connected. Wake County Public Schools sought to improve achievement through aggressive economic desegregation.
In the 1970s, Wake County combined the wealthier adjacent districts with the poorer ones. Learning from the many cases that failed to integrate based on race, Wake County took a different approach. In 2000, Wake County established a goal that no school would have more than 40 percent of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Officials then created a choice system that maximized diversity. Busing and magnet schools were used to attract wealthy and poor students to underrepresented areas.