Lowering school district boundaries will only increase economic segregation in schools, not lessen it

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North Carolina students could be able to choose to attend any public school in the state under a proposed bill - a potentially problematic solution to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' skyrocketing economic segregation.

A draft sent to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee would require school districts across the state to set up plans allowing families to request a seat in any school, anywhere, regardless of their home district. Requests could only be denied for lack of space.

It's a measure that might allow CMS students to jump ship from poor schools that keep getting poorer - a 2013 Duke University study found that N.C. schools are becoming more imbalanced by economics than race, with CMS schools becoming drawn down economic lines at a rate nearly four times greater than that of Wake County schools since 1994. Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake County are the state's two largest school districts.

The 2002 end of busing policies aimed at achieving greater socioeconomic diversity might have added to the divide, but the proposed legislation wouldn't necessarily remedy that issue - the bill would not require districts to provide transportation for students who chose to leave their home district.

Sen. Fletcher Hartsell (R-Cabarrus), chairman of the subcommittee that drafted the bill, says it's meant to "create a parity between various institutions to meet the needs of the children and not the institutions." But some school board members fear a logistical nightmare.

"I have no idea how we would manage that," Bill Fletcher, a Wake County school board member, said at a board meeting Monday. "I just can't imagine what would happen if a neighboring district all of a sudden had 1,000 kids wanting to go [to a different district]."

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