Monday, March 01, 2010

National Attention


I’m making time to at least share the following comment that a Raleigh parent posted on the NY Times website after this article came out on Sunday: 


One Raleigh Parent

Raleigh, NC

February 28th, 2010

7:52 am

Please be aware that the writer "parachuted in", according to the local reporter who has been covering our education beat for years, and tried to get a feel for the issues and cover the story. The devil here, as in our national healthcare debate, is in the details.
Some background: I've lived in Raleigh for more than a decade, have kids in the public schools, and was born in NC. I follow the school issues closely. I was at the meeting where Sam Haney spoke, and heard the quote given.
No one in Raleigh, at least, no one I've talked to in this debate, is "against diversity." The idea that "way down south they are ready to re-segregate" is both inaccurate and stereotypical.
The problem is one of defining how much influence the value of diversity should have over the district's decision-making. For instance, how many minutes should a six year old spend on a bus each day in order for him to go to a school that offers a "more affluent" peer group? And how many schools should a student drive past to attend one that "needs him" because of his family's income? How many students should be denied seats at the county's well-regarded magnet program, even if those seats are available, because to leave his "neighborhood school" would leave that school with one less affluent family? Is it fair to families in largely minority areas to require their students give up seats in local schools to kids who are coming from far away to keep their schools from being "too poor"? If people desire proximity for their children, do they have to give up academic excellence? These judgments are commonplace here.
Furthermore, the stress this constant reassigment for diversity puts on families is a topic of everyday conversation. Some families have three children on three different school schedules, as administrators have put the needs of a school over those of a family for years. And the areas divided are not at the neighborhood level. "Nodes" are the word the system uses for reassignement purposes. My node is quite literally my street. There are precisely five students on my street. My neighborhood has more than five nodes, and we are not a particularly large neighborhood for my area. In one local neighborhood, buses going to fifteen (15) different schools stop each morning. Keep in mind these are not municipal buses on their daily routes, but school buses that only pick up children going to a specific school. The transportation logistics required to keep the diversity balance to the levels the previous board mandated is tremendously expensive.
The story also implied the Republicans won the election. That's simply not the case. The issue won the election- the republicans were just the party who backed the candidates on the right side of this issue. You don't get such a large percentage of the vote in Wake County just by being republican. Many democrats, myself included, felt like our party gave more credibility to the "soft" argument that was pro-bussing, pro-reassignment, and anti-calendar options when parents, both affluent and challenged, desire stability, schools we can get to, and a calendar that will keep our kids home at the same time. If there were proof that the policy currently in place actually achieved educational gains, perhaps people would be willing to put up with the difficulty it causes. But to find out we're actually slipping since 2000, and still be asked to bear these burdens, is too much. The voters had enough, and request a more reasonable approach that is more child-centered and less system-centered.


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