A Horrible, No Good, Very Bad NCGA Idea Has Died (for Now) | News

A Horrible, No Good, Very Bad NCGA Idea Has Died (for Now)

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This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

Earlier this year, Republicans in the state legislature convened a committee to look at breaking up large school districts into smaller ones. While they claimed they weren’t targeting any particular district, they were responding to some suburban parents in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake, by far the state’s two largest districts, who argued for more local control. The biggest problem, though, is that doing that would inexorably lead to greater segregation. White parents in the suburbs would have their own districts, as would more diverse and often less-affluent parents in the city.
  • As Bloomberg reported earlier this week, this is an increasingly common trend across the South: “Though it has no law allowing school secession, North Carolina is the latest Southern state looking to resegregate what’s left of the region’s integrated public schools. More than 60 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling made school racial segregation unconstitutional, school secession has been gaining momentum across the South, with richer areas trying to wall their kids and tax dollars off from big districts in Atlanta; Dallas; Little Rock, Ark.; Baton Rouge, La.; Birmingham, Mobile, and Montgomery in Alabama; and Memphis and Chattanooga in Tennessee. Since 2000, 71 areas in the U.S. have tried to secede from their school districts, reversing a decades-long consolidation trend, according to EdBuild, which studies school funding. Forty-nine succeeded; nine are in process. … For integration proponents, North Carolina’s move is particularly disheartening because desegregation worked so well there. Its big urban districts have been national role models for successful, integrated schools, helping to attract businesses and power local economies. The Raleigh-centered Wake County district is ‘one of the foundation stones of our economy here,’ says Wake County Commissioner John Burns. ‘People want to move here for the public schools.’”
  • Last month, state education officials told the General Assembly committee that breaking up school systems would lead to lawsuits, higher costs, and fewer school choices.
  • And yesterday, the committee decided to punt. From the N&O: “State lawmakers who are looking into how to break up North Carolina's school districts agreed Wednesday that additional study is needed before legislation is considered to split up any school systems. Leaders of a state legislative committee said Wednesday they didn't have enough time to address all the issues that would come up if any of North Carolina's 115 school districts were split into smaller ones. The committee adopted a report that says additional study is needed before the General Assembly creates a process for the public to try to break up large school districts.”

WHAT IT MEANS: As the Bloomberg story points out, there are some difficulties with large districts. If, for instance, a flake of snow falls in Wake Forest, the whole damn system shuts down. And, of course, some parts of the county complain that they’re given short shrift in favor other parts. But on the whole, Wake’s school is considered a success. Resegregating the schools by breaking up the district would benefit the few at the expense of the many.

Related: Speaking of issues in Wake schools: “West Millbrook Middle School parents expressed their frustrations at Tuesday night's Wake County school board meeting. The complaints included sewage coming up from the floors, plaster coming off the ceiling, splintering walls and a concave courtyard. The district plans to renovate the school by 2023, but many parents said they feel something must be done before then.”
  • “Wake County Public School System spokeswoman Lisa Luten said that, while many board members are aware of the school's issues and need for renovations, the Wake County Board of Education does not have taxing authority and relies on the county, state and federal governments to determine spending.”
  • The school system has floated a nearly $59 million request for this year, which would require the county to implement significant property tax hikes. And that’s including the school construction bond the county wants to place on the ballot this year, which could also require tax hikes.

Related: Wake kids get three fewer days of classes this year so that teachers can have more workdays.

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