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Wake County, N.C. Wrestles With Integration Policy

The Washington Post ran a thoughtful piece today about Wake County's dismantling of its school integration policy. In doing so, the paper places the battle in a larger political context:


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.

Education Week has also explored these issues, in an April 2010 article about Wake County specifically and an article in May 2010 about the use of socioeconomic status in school assignments.

The political winds seem to be moving in a direction toward neighborhood schools and against explicit desegregation/diversity policies. I'm interested to know what readers think—are we "done" with diversity as a school goal, or is a potential good being lost?

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