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by JuJuBe (Joanna)

Well the Tea Party has been crying out about “Taking our country back!” recently. They seem to want a return to the (not so) “Good Ole Days” when “those people” knew their place. And, they have been successful in their attempt to turn back the clock in the Wake County School District in North Carolina. Yes, they have won their battle to re-segregate a school district that had one of the most successful economic integration programs in the country.
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. Source

John Tedesco, one of the new school board members and a staunch opponent of the integration policy has made the outrageous claim that segregated schools BENEFIT the children who attend. “If we had a school that was, like, 80 percent high-poverty, the public would see the challenges, the need to make it successful,” he said. “Right now, we have diluted the problem, so we can ignore it.”

I do not know what world Mr. Tedesco lives in, but it is certainly not the same one as me. Going back to a “neighborhood schools” program and increasing racial and socio-economic segregation will make it far easier for the parents of middle class and wealthy children to ignore the plight of the rest of the children of the school district. I mean, why would they care about those poor, Black and Brown children when THEIR kids are attending high quality schools?

In a perfect world, a school that has mostly poor, minority students would not suffer any deficits. But this is the real world, and in the real world, as diversity in schools decreases, so does the quality of education. Schools that are majority minority and/or majority poor receive less funding. The teachers they hire are often inexperienced and inferior. The building upkeep is not a top priority. In other words, it becomes a hostile environment for children who the (white) public wants to pretend do not exist.

The parents in the wealthier areas of Raleigh have attempted to blame “issues” within the school district on the economic integration program. Rather than addressing the perceived problems by head on, they want to go back to the days prior to the Brown vs.Board of Education decision. Because it is OBVIOUS that it is those Black and Brown children that are the REAL villains, right? And the (white) parents in Raleigh surely do not want their dysfunction to rub off on THEIR precious little ones!

Proponents of the integration program point out that slowly but surely, it is producing more successful students. It is not a solution to every problem plaguing the poorer students in the district, but there have been many benefits.

Over the years, both Republican and Democratic school boards supported the system. A study of 2007 graduation rates by EdWeek magazine ranked Wake County 17th among the nation’s 50 largest districts, with a rate of 64 percent, just below Virginia’s Prince William County. While most students posted gains in state reading and math tests last year – more than three-quarters passed – the stubborn achievement gap that separates minority students from their white peers has persisted, though it has narrowed by some measures. And many parents see benefits beyond test scores.

“I want these kids to be culturally diverse,” said Clarence McClain, who is African American and the guardian of a niece and nephew who are doing well in county schools. “If they’re with kids who are all the same way, to break out of that is impossible. You’ve got to step outside your little world.” Source

The parents in the wealthier parts of the county make no attempt to see the bigger picture. They are completely dismissing the needs of poor and minority students because they want to shield their own children from the problems they associate with poverty. But, in promoting segregated schools, are they preparing their own children for the larger world? Are they teaching their kids that problems need to be addressed head on, or are they teaching them to divert blame and run away from pursuing possible solutions? They claim that they want the best for their child, but in the long run, they are just teaching their children to perpetuate stratification based on race. They are preparing their kids to be the racists of tomorrow!

Note: I first wrote of the controversial move towards ending this integration program in a Guest Post on Diversity Ink. It is in the news again because new student assignments are now being made using the “community school” option rather than the previous diversity boosting economic integration model.