2, 4, 6, 8, NC. to re-segregate?

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Back in the fall of 2005, I was a writer for the newspaper of a prominent, and prominently white, CMS high school. I was new to Charlotte and puzzled at the lack of diversity on campus. In talking to some of the school’s seasoned teachers, I learned that this had not always been the case. From 1971 to 1999, CMS students were bussed across the city in an effort to increase socioeconomic diversity in schools. I wrote an article for my high school’s newspaper about how the reversal of the bussing plan had affected CMS, and never gave the issue much thought again. That is, until this morning when I read an article in the Huffington Post titled, “N.C. Plans a Step Back Toward Segregation.” You can read the full article here, but I've excerpted the most important parts;

In the last few months, extreme right-wing members of North Carolina's Wake County have advanced an agenda of "neighborhood schooling" that would drastically reduce school diversity and roll back years of progress and integration.

Neighborhood schools, when implemented, usually mean some children get public schools that are racially identifiable and high-poverty, while others get schools that are selective, highly resourced and in effect function as "private" schools for the white and affluent.

Research confirms that students in racially diverse schools do better in math and reading and display a marked increase in critical thinking. A 2006 study showed that the Latino and African American gains in math were much greater in diverse schools than in segregated ones.

Other studies have shown that diverse high schools have smaller gaps in reading than schools with few or no students of color.

In Wake County, they are trying to fix something that isn't broken.

In a school board survey, 94 percent of parents said they support the current system; 86 percent of all students already go to schools within 5 miles of their homes.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan criticized the Wake County school board in a letter to the Washington Post.

"America's strength has always been a function of its diversity, so it is troubling to see North Carolina's Wake County school board take steps to reverse a long-standing policy to promote racial diversity in its schools," he wrote.

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating the board's decision, after the state chapter of the NAACP and other groups filed a complaint last year.

Those who dismiss this issue as a local concern should consider that Wake County is emblematic of a larger problem. School boards across the country, including Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois and elsewhere in North Carolina, have problems with segregation or racial achievement gaps in classrooms.

And several like-minded school board members in those states are hoping to replicate the experiment unfolding in North Carolina. North Carolina could become a social justice battleground, just as Arizona has been in the immigration debate.

My article never did make it to print those six years ago. Now the same issue resurfaces in the same state, and during Black History Month, no less. History will repeat itself endlessly until we wake up, stand up, and refuse to stand idly by.

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