Yesterday, the Orange County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution that affirms the constitutional right of all children in North Carolina to attend public schools in their county of residence, without regard to their immigration status. The resolution was developed and supported by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the ACLU of North Carolina, the Orange County […]
Access to public education should be available to all children, regardless of where they were born. This seems like a simple idea – why would we deny any child a basic K-12 education? How can a child grow intellectually and emotionally, and become a contributing member of society, without a sound basic education? Courts and […]
[This is a courtesy posting for Aim Higher NC, a nonprofit campaign working to improve public education in North Carolina.] On January 5, 2014, Gov. Jim Hunt showed the kind of leadership missing in North Carolina lately by drawing a line in the sand. In an opinion piece published by the Raleigh News & Observer, Gov. Hunt […]
On August 22, 2013 The Rachel Maddow Show was devoted entirely to North Carolina voting rights issues. One of the major topics was SCSJ client Montravias King. Mr. King has lived in Elizabeth City since the summer of 2009, when he moved there to attend Elizabeth City State University. During the last four years, Mr. […]
Parents, Community Groups Challenge General Assembly’s Illegal Redistricting of Wake County School Board
August 22, 2013 Parents, Community Groups Challenge General Assembly’s Illegal Redistricting of Wake County School Board Contact: Anita Earls, Anita@southerncoalition.org; 919-323-3380 x 115 WAKE COUNTY, NC – Today the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, on behalf of thirteen Wake County citizens and two community organizations, filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging Senate Bill […]
http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2013/08/14/private-turned-charter-school-raises-questions-of-access/ Private-turned-charter school raises questions of access Posted on 8/14/2013 by Lindsay Wagner Print This Article The actions of a private-turned-charter school in Robeson County have parents and concerned citizens questioning whether the school is trying to limit access to the school, and raise questions about the enforcement of the state law that mandates that […]
Parents in lawsuit say Robeson County charter school’s enrollment plan was unfair By Ali Rockett Staff writer LUMBERTON – Parents who say they were unable to enroll their children in Robeson County’s newest charter school have filed a complaint with the state Office of Charter Schools. Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed the complaint […]
America’s strength has always been a function of its diversity, so it is troubling to see North Carolina’s Wake County School Board taking steps to reverse a long-standing policy to promote racial diversity in its schools [“In N.C., a new battle on school integration,” front page, Jan. 12]. The board’s action has led to a complaint that has prompted an investigation by our Office for Civil Rights, but it should also prompt a conversation among educators, parents and students across America about our core values.
Those core values, embodied in our founding documents, subsequent amendments and court rulings, include equity and diversity in education and opportunity. In fact, on Monday we celebrate the life and leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose movement for racial equality inspired a nation and brought us closer to the more perfect union envisioned by our founders.
In an increasingly diverse society like ours, racial isolation is not a positive outcome for children of any color or background. School is where children learn to appreciate, respect and collaborate with people different from themselves. I respectfully urge school boards across America to fully consider the consequences before taking such action. This is no time to go backward.
– Arne Duncan, Washington
The writer is U.S. education secretary.
By Stephanie McCrummen
Washington Post Staff Writer
IN 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.
The situation unfolding here in some ways represents a first foray of tea party conservatives into the business of shaping a public school system, and it has made Wake County the center of a fierce debate over the principle first enshrined in the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education: that diversity and quality education go hand in hand.
The new school board has won applause from parents who blame the old policy – which sought to avoid high-poverty, racially isolated schools – for an array of problems in the district and who say that promoting diversity is no longer a proper or necessary goal for public schools.
“This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s – my life is integrated,” said John Tedesco, a new board member. “We need new paradigms.”
But critics accuse the new board of pursuing an ideological agenda aimed at nothing less than sounding the official death knell of government-sponsored integration in one of the last places to promote it. Without a diversity policy in place, they say, the county will inevitably slip into the pattern that defines most districts across the country, where schools in well-off neighborhoods are decent and those in poor, usually minority neighborhoods struggle.
The NAACP has filed a civil rights complaint arguing that 700 initial student transfers the new board approved have already increased racial segregation, violating laws that prohibit the use of federal funding for discriminatory purposes. In recent weeks, federal education officials visited the county, the first step toward a possible investigation.
“So far, all the chatter we heard from tea partyers has not manifested in actually putting in place retrograde policies. But this is one place where they have literally attempted to turn back the clock,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP.
School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta referred questions on the matter to the district’s attorney, who declined to comment. Tedesco, who has emerged as the most vocal among the new majority on the nine-member board, said he and his colleagues are only seeking a simpler system in which children attend the schools closest to them. If the result is a handful of high-poverty schools, he said, perhaps that will better serve the most challenged students.
“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.”
So far, the board shows few signs of shifting course. Last month, it announced that Anthony J. Tata, former chief operating officer of the D.C. schools, will replace a superintendent who resigned to protest the new board’s intentions. Tata, a retired general, names conservative commentator Glenn Beck and the Tea Party Patriots among his “likes” on his Facebook page.
Tata did not return calls seeking comment, but he said in a recent news conference in Raleigh that he supports the direction the new board is taking, and cited the District as an example of a place where neighborhood schools are “working.”
Beyond ‘your little world’
The story unfolding here is striking because of the school district’s unusual history. It sprawls 800 square miles and includes public housing in Raleigh, wealthy enclaves near town, and the booming suburbs beyond, home to newcomers that include many new school board members. The county is about 72 percent white, 20 percent black and 9 percent Latino. About 10 percent live in poverty.
Usually, such large territory is divided into smaller districts with students assigned to the nearest schools. And because neighborhoods are still mostly defined by race and socioeconomic status, poor and minority kids wind up in high-poverty schools that struggle with problems such as retaining the best teachers.
Officials in Raleigh tried to head off that scenario. As white flight hit in the 1970s, civic leaders merged the city and county into a single district. And in 2000, they shifted from racial to economic integration, adopting a goal that no school should have more than 40 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, the proxy for poverty.
The district tried to strike this balance through student assignments and choice, establishing magnet programs in poor areas to draw middle-class kids. Although most students here ride buses to school, officials said fewer than 10 percent are bused to a school to maintain diversity, and most bus rides are less than five miles.
“We knew that over time, high-poverty schools tend to lose high-quality teachers, leadership, key students – you see an erosion,” said Bill McNeal, a former superintendent who instituted the goal as part of a broad academic plan. “But we never expected economic diversity to solve all our problems.”
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.”
But as the county has boomed in recent years – adding as many as 6,000 students a year – poverty levels at some schools have exceeded 70 percent. And many suburban parents have complained that their children are being reassigned from one school to the next. Officials blame this on the unprecedented growth, but parents blame the diversity goal.
“Basically, all the problems have roots in the diversity policy,” said Kathleen Brennan, who formed a parent group to challenge the system. “There was just this constant shuffling every year.” She added: “These people are patting themselves on the back and only 54 percent of [poor] kids are graduating. And I’m being painted a racist. But isn’t it racist to have low expectations?”
As she and others have delved deeper, they’ve found that qualified minority students are underenrolled in advanced math classes, for instance, a problem that school officials said they’ve known about for years, but that strikes many parents as revelatory. Some have even come to see the diversity policy as a kind of profiling that assumes poor kids are more likely to struggle.
“I don’t want us to go back to racially isolated schools,” said Shila Nordone, who is biracial and has two children in county schools. “But right now, it’s as if the best we can do is dilute these kids out so they don’t cause problems. It sickens me.”
In their quest to end the diversity policy, the frustrated parents have found some influential partners, among them retail magnate and Republican operative Art Pope.
Following his guidance, the GOP fielded the victorious bloc of school board candidates who railed against “forced busing.” The nation’s largest tea party organizers, Americans for Prosperity – on whose national board Pope sits – cast the old school board members as arrogant “leftists.” Two libertarian think tanks, which Pope funds almost exclusively, have deployed experts on TV and radio.
“We are losing sight of the educational mission of schools to make them into some socially acceptable melting pot,” said Terry Stoops, a researcher at the libertarian John Locke Foundation. “Those who support these policies are imposing their vision on everyone else.”
Things have not gone smoothly as the new school board has attempted to define its vision for raising student achievement. A preliminary map of new school assignments did not please some of the new majority’s own constituents. And critics expressed alarm that the plan would create a handful of high-poverty, racially isolated schools, a scenario that the new majority has begun embracing.
Pope, who is a former state legislator, said he would back extra funding for such schools.
“If we end up with a concentration of students underperforming academically, it may be easier to reach out to them,” he said. “Hypothetically, we should consider that as well.”
The NAACP and others have criticized that as separate-but-equal logic.
“It’s not as if this is a new idea, ‘Let’s experiment and see what happens when poor kids are put together in one school,’ ” said Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that advocates for economic integration. “We know. The results are almost always disastrous.”
Many local leaders see another irony in the possible balkanization of the county’s schools at a time when society is becoming more interconnected than ever.
“People want schools that mirror their neighborhood, but the bigger picture is my kid in the suburbs is connected to kids in Raleigh,” said the Rev. Earl Johnson, pastor of Martin Street Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh. “We’re trying to connect to the world but we’re separating locally? There is something wrong.”
On September 24, SCSJ filed a discrimination complaint against the Wake County School Board and the Wake County Public School System. The complainants include the NAACP, NC H.E.A.T. (a Wake student organization), and Quinton White (a Wake County high school student). The Title VI federal civil rights complaint alleges:
1. The School Board engaged in intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin when it made certain reassignments in April of 2010.
2. These reassignments have a disparate negative impact on students on the basis of race, color or national origin.
3. The disciplinary policies employed by the Wake County Public School System have a disproportionately negative impact on African American students.
The Department of Education has begun an initial investigation process. Follow the links below to read the complaint , the appendix (containing detailed reassignment data), and all of the exhibits submitted in support of the complaint.
Title VI Complaint against Wake County School Board
Appendix A – Reassignment Maps and Figures
Exhibit 1 – 4/6/10 Board Meeting Minutes
Exhibit 2 – Greater Schools in Wake Coalition, “The Need to Know More about What the Academic Research Says”
Exhibit 3 – Wake County Public School System: Board Policy – Transfer of School Assignment (6203)
Exhibit 4 – Greater Schools in Wake Coalition: Student Transportation Fact Sheet
Exhibit 5 – Updated Node Membership Data
Exhibit 6 – Wake County Public School System: Student Assignment Policy (with deletions)
By Charlotte Huffman
RALEIGH, N.C. – A local high school student who joined the NAACP complaint against the Wake County School Board says he feels minorities have been singled out.
This comes after the Wake County School Board voted to institute community schools and to end busing to achieve socio-economic diversity. On Friday, a federal complaint accusing the Wake County School Board of discrimination was filed by the NAACP.
18-year-old Quinton White was one of 165 non-white students and three white students reassigned in April from Garner High to Southeast Raleigh High School.
“We are in the south and it is no secret that racism still exists in the south and it has in the past… It’s not about an individual. It’s about a community, it is about a group, it is about people’s futures,” White said.
The federal civil rights complaint filed by White, NAACP and teen youth group, NC HEAT, alleges “intentional discrimination” by the school board. However, Wake County School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta says such discrimination is a false claim.
“If we wanted to we could not segregate.There are federal laws, state laws, court rulings, federal and local that prohibit it,” Margiotta contested.
Margiotta backed the school board’s plans saying their intent with school reassignments is to focus on three things: proximity, stability for families and choice for families. He says the new reassignments are designed to fix a system that he calls an academic failure.
“Just take a look at the graduation rates. The graduation rates for low income students are the lowest in North Carolina. That said, that’s unacceptable. These are things we are going to try to correct,” Margiotta said.
Margiotta also says the complaint, along with any other legal actions, will not only cost taxpayers money but will also continue to divide the county.
Group Files Lawsuit Against Wake School Board
WAKE COUNTY, N.C. –
A group of Wake County citizens has filed a lawsuit against the Wake County School Board.
The suit, which was filed Thursday morning, references a March 23 meeting where the Wake County School Board passed a resolution opposing the diversity policy in favor of so-called “neighborhood schools.”
The plaintiffs are being represented by the ACLU of North Carolina, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, NC NAACP, UNC Center for Civil Rights, NC Justice Center and multiple private lawyers.
According to the suit, the plaintiffs argue that the school board made no effort to make it possible for everyone to attend that diversity policy meeting, despite the overwhleming public interest. Many of the plaintiffs in the suit allege that they were barred from the meeting, violating state law and undermining the democratic process.
“The school board has made it clear that they have an agenda to follow,” said Woody Barlow in a written statement. Barlow is a plaintiff in the lawsuit and a junior at Enloe High School. “I feel cheated that they would skirt procedure just to have their way, and regardless of what people think of the policies of the board, everyone should feel threatened by their disregard of the democratic process.”
Manypeople were barred from attending due to limited space. Some news organizations offered to pay to move the meeting to a larger venue. But the offer came too last minute, and the school board then issued a ticket policy for the meeting.
The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the actions taken on March 23 based on violations of the Open Meetings Law.
“The suit does not ask for any money in compensatory damages. It is purely a good government lawsuit,” said Irv Joyner said in a written statement. Joyner is an attorney with the NC NAACP.
The plaintiffs also ask the court to order the school board to eliminate policies and practices adopted since the March 23 meeting that have restricted public access to the board. The suit asks the court to require new, clear and consistent procedures put in place to ensure that all members of the public who want to attend meetings are allowed to do so and to effectively participate in the process.
Lawsuit filed against Wake school board
By T. Keung Hui
(Raleigh) News & Observer
Posted: Thursday, May. 06, 2010
RALEIGH — A group of Wake County residents filed a lawsuit this morning accusing the Wake County school board of violating state law by restricting public access to a meeting in which a resolution was passed calling for community schools.
In the lawsuit filed in Wake County Superior Court, the residents say the school board violated the state Open Meetings Law by requiring people to get tickets to attend the meeting. During the meeting, the board passed by a 5-4 vote a resolution calling for the creation of community-based schools and the end of the district’s socioeconomic diversity policy.
The lawsuit asks the court to throw out the vote.
The citizens are represented by the ACLU of North Carolina, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, NC NAACP, UNC Center for Civil Rights, NC Justice Center and multiple private lawyers.
Citing security and crowding concerns, the school district had required people to get tickets for a seat in the board room.
The overflow crowd at the meeting stretched into the hallways and outside the building. Three people were arrested at a protest.
The lawsuit cites the offer by The News & Observer and Capitol Broadcasting to pay for the cost of relcoating the meeting to a larger site. Citing logistical concerns, school board chairman Ron Margiotta turned down the request.
The civil rights groups representing the people filing the lawsuit had also raised concerns that day about the ticket policy.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-829-4534
Suit Challenges Diversity Vote
BY T. KEUNG HUI AND THOMAS GOLDSMITH – Staff Writers
RALEIGH — In the first legal challenge for the Wake County school board majority and its vow to remake North Carolina’s largest school district, opponents filed a lawsuit Thursday arguing that two votes against the diversity policy should be tossed out because state law was violated.
The lawsuit, filed in Wake County Superior Court, contends that the school board majority has stifled public participation by deliberately refusing to move recent board meetings to larger venues despite knowing there would be large crowds in attendance. This refusal violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Law , the lawsuit says, so votes taken March 23 and Tuesday to ditch the diversity policy and replace it with a student assignment policy canted toward neighborhood schools should be declared void.
Some of the civil rights groups providing legal services have also criticized ending efforts to balance the percentage of low-income students at individual schools to bolster overall academic achievement. Several of the plaintiffs are parents and students, many from magnet schools, who have spoken out against changing the diversity policy.
“Whether or not you support the diversity plan, the school board wasn’t doing what it was doing the way it was supposed to be doing it,” said Andrew Snee, 15, a Broughton High School freshman and one of the plaintiffs.
School board Chairman Ron Margiotta has toldsupporters they should expect a number of lawsuits from opponents. On Thursday, he said this lawsuit was merely a tactic by opponents to stop the board majority from fulfilling its campaign promises.
“I think we bent over backwards to allow people to speak,” Margiotta said. “If they want to just bring us into court, all this will do is take more money from the children of this county. Accept the wishes of the people of this county.”
A court hearing has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday in Courtroom 5B in the Wake County Courthouse in downtown Raleigh.
On March 23, the board voted 5-4 in favor of a resolution calling for the creation of community-based schools and discontinuation of socioeconomic diversity. On Tuesday, the board gave initial approval by a 4-3 vote to a revised student assignment policy that fleshes out the previous resolution.
But the threat of legal action has been in the air since before the new board majority took office Dec. 1 after four Republican-backed candidates swept last fall’s election.
The Rev. William Barber, state president of the NAACP, warned at the time that if Wake County’s new approach to assigning students wound up resegregating schools, the system could be subject to a lawsuit based on the state constitution’s stipulation that all children are guaranteed a sound basic education.
Margiotta cited the threatened NAACP suit against Wake as a justification for hiring Republican lawyer Tom Farr as interim special counsel. Margiotta said the board’s majority members wanted to keep their options open in case they chose not to call on longtime board attorneys Tharrington Smith, whose founding partner Wade Smith is a former state Democratic Party chairman.
The state NAACP is among the groups providing attorneys in the lawsuit. Other groups in the case include the ACLU of North Carolina, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, UNC Center for Civil Rights, and the N.C. Justice Center.
Orage Quarles III, publisher of The News & Observer, is a member of the board of directors of the N.C. Justice Center.
The crowds at board meetings have sharply increased since December, escalating the often rancorous public opposition to the ruling majority. Starting with the March 23 meeting, the school system began requiring tickets for seats in the boardroom. Margiotta had cited concerns raised by the fire marshal for the change.
But the lawsuit contends that the board created the ticket policy and chose not to move any of the meetings to a larger venue because it felt that “full public access” might “threaten their narrow majority and jeopardize” their plans.
“They felt that hearing from so many people was slowing down the process and slowing down what they wanted to get done,” said Woody Barlow, 17, an Enloe High School junior and one of the plaintiffs.
The suit notes how the school board turned down the last-minute March 23 offer from The News & Observer and Capitol Broadcasting to pay for relocating the meeting to the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh.
“This is about democracy and the way we make decisions in this country,” said Swain Wood, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
The crowd at the March 23 meeting overflowed into the hallway and outside the building. Angry students began chanting, leading to the arrests of three protesters, none of whom are current Wake students.
School board member John Tedesco, a member of the majority, called the case a “nuisance complaint.” Even if the board loses the case, he said the only thing that will happen is they’ll reapprove the changes again.
“All they’re doing is taking money out of the classroom to pay for their lawsuit,” Tedesco said. “It won’t change the vote.”
School Board Opponents Arrive Early For Meeting
By Thomas Goldsmith – Staff writer
RALEIGH — Opponents of the Wake County school board’s plans to end use of socioeconomic diversity in student assignment were already in place today before the beginning of a preliminary meeting now in progress.
Several representatives of the grassroots nonprofit Great Schools in Wake were among those waiting in the lobby of the schools administration building on Wake Forest Road to receive tickets for the meeting. And several are in attendance at the meeting of the Committee of the Whole, which precedes the full board meeting at 3 p.m.
The move to take diversity out of the assignment equation at the full board meeting has brought out not only several long-term supporters of the former diversity policy, but also plans by a social action group to demonstrate outside the building. The Coalition for Southern Justice, based in Durham, filed the necessary paperwork to stage the demonstration.
Passage on second reading of a new assignment policy would represent a significant victory for the current board, which has four members who joined after posting wins in contentious elections last fall. It would end decades of Wake County’s attempts to balance student populations in an effort to keep schools from having excessive concentrations of low-income or minority students.
Supporters of the change have said the old policy merely hid the low academic performance of students in low-income and minority groups by sending them to schools that were high-achieving in aggregate.
As the Wake County School Board prepares to reverse its long-time diversity-based assignment plan, about 15 protesters are chanting against the change.
Outside the schools administration building on Wake Forest Road, students from Broughton, Enloe and Cary high schools are carrying signs and shouting “Shut it down!” about the new assignment plan. The plan is up for its second reading later today.
“We have demands for the school board,” said Andrew Snee, 15, a Broughton High School freshman and one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the system that was dismissed Friday. The protesters want the board to put off consideration of the new assignment plan and rescind a policy under which people must get tickets to attend school board meetings. Elena Everett, an activist with from Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice, helped organize the protest.
From The text of the NC Open Meetings Law, which requires that organizations making policy in North Carolina conduct their business openly. The text of the NC Open Meetings Law, which requires that organizations making policy in North Carolina conduct their business openly. From http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/ByArticle/Chapter_143/Article_33C.html
The left-wing Southern Coalition for Social Justice has put together a YouTube video of the March 23 protest at the Wake County school board meeting about the elimination of the diversity policy.
The video includes scenes of the chanting and the confrontation with school board chairman Ron Margiotta, which resulted in the arrests of three people who have a history of political activism. Also included are brief interviews with various young people, some of whom are magnet students and some who are not.
One young person said he supports the diversity policy because “I don’t want to see Wakefield (High School) turned into the giant saltine school.”
Another young person said she’s getting involved because “I’m not going to let Dr. King and all the other civil rights leaders die in vain or the marches be in vain.”
SCSJ believes that the Wake County school board’s controversial decision to dismantle the county’s nationally acclaimed diversity policy will fundamentally undermine educational opportunity for students of color, particularly low-income African Americans and Latinos.
The system did not solve all problems: tracking and other factors still create defacto within-school segregation; as early as kindergarten, students are separated into tracks, such as Gifted and Talented, Honors, Special Needs and Remedial, which become virtually unchangeable for the rest of their academic careers, thus impacting the competitiveness of their college and scholarship applications.
Wake County has a high number of suspensions and an achievement gap that correlates with race and socioeconomic status. However, dismantling the diversity policy will only further exacerbate these inequities and will have a disproportionate and negative impact on students that are already at risk.
Because neighborhoods tend to be segregated, so do neighborhood schools. The inconvenience of bussing is more than a fair price to pay for the benefits of integration, enriched curricula, and real opportunities for all children.