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Genocide's The Word

Whining about Manning won't solve our very real problems

They still don't get it. Charlotte's shiny shoes crowd and those who serve it were "shocked," "puzzled" and "disappointed" by a judge's use of the term "academic genocide" to describe what takes place on a day-to-day basis in many county schools. They just couldn't understand why Judge Howard Manning would go to such extremes to attack our school system in his report. The final consensus among the shiny shoes crowd seemed to be that the judge must be a little off. This crowd could benefit from a 2-by-4 between the eyes. Manning, the judge in a lawsuit that seeks more money from the state for impoverished school districts, attempted to deliver such a blow in his well-documented 30-page report. The report repeatedly used Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as the primary example of everything that is wrong with education in North Carolina.

The problem here may be that the shoes are busy people who likely relied on the media's cherry-picked version of what the report said rather than taking the time to read it themselves, which, let me assure you, is a hair-raising experience.

That means that like the rest of the county, the shows were told that according to the report, eight of CMS' 17 high schools had a pass rate of less than 60 percent on their 2004 end-of-course exams. Since 40 other high schools in the state - out of a total of 326 - also fall in that category, the situation doesn't sound bad enough to justify the flogging we got. Right? So why would Manning single us out?

The answer is that the rest of what Manning had to say - the real meat of his report - was conveniently left out of other news accounts. Like the fact that more than a third of our high schools are among the 20 worst in the state, with pass rates of less than 50 percent. That puts them in the bottom six percent of high schools in the state. Two others with pass rates in the low 50s are on the edge of falling into the six-percent category. If the scores at these schools decline as much this year as they did last year, half the schools in the system will fall into this category. As it is, half the schools in the system are presently in the bottom 15 percent in the state.

Here are a few other blows to the head:

¨ Seventy percent of our high schools, or 12 out of 17, have pass rates that put them in the bottom third of high schools in the state.

¨ Only one of our high schools, Providence, has a pass rate of more than 80 percent. Providence is the only CMS high school that ranks in the top third of state schools.

¨ Two-thirds of high schools in Union County and 70 percent of high schools in Wake County are in the top third.

And then there's the kicker, which so far hasn't been reported anywhere else: Pass rates among black students and white students have stayed exactly the same here over the last three years, while school districts that spend half of what this county does have significantly boosted achievement rates for both groups.

"The comparison and contrast to CMS' high school performance was stunning," Manning wrote.

More stunning still is that test scores for black children are actually higher in each of the impoverished counties that filed the lawsuit than they are here.

Fifty-five percent of African-American children in Cumberland County passed their tests, compared to 40 percent here. Seventy-seven percent of white kids passed here, while 80 percent passed in Cumberland.

Sure sounds like academic genocide to me.

I don't particularly enjoy trashing the school system, but since the shiny shoes have taken it upon themselves to fix it, I just thought they ought to get an accurate description of the academic wasteland we call Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

For years, the educrats and some school board members have gotten away with blaming the poor kids and the black kids the schools have failed so miserably. "But we've just got so many of them, and they're just so expensive to educate," they whine year after year. To me that always sounded like a bunch of thinly veiled racist crap, which is exactly what Manning's report proves it was.

The truth is that administrators in the most backassward armpits of this state are doing a better job educating poor kids and minorities than we are for about half the money we spend.

And for what it's worth, the reason we have such high percentages of minorities and poor kids in our schools is that white parents have been fleeing the system for years. In the past four years, an additional 10,000 white kids have enrolled in surrounding school systems while the number of white kids in this system hasn't increased in a decade.

We are rapidly approaching the point where no corporate executive in his or her right mind would choose Mecklenburg over Wake County. All the NASCAR museums, professional sports teams and business recruitment subsidies in the world won't make a bit of difference if we don't fix this problem.

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