Even popular comedian Stephen Colbert has picked up on what has become a misrepresented story about the changes in school assignments in Wake County. My commentary on the matter is overdue, so I’m taking time for a short post today. I hope I have some time to do a more in-depth story later from a libertarian perspective.
NOTE: Because board positions are non-partisan, I will refrain from labeling school board members with political party affiliations or political activist movements. I think creating this unnecessary association serves only as an emotional trigger than changes how the reader reacts to the facts. I challenge any reputable media outlet to do the same.
Here’s a summary of the situation: The current school board majority, elected in 2009, supports assignments to schools based solely on location. This is a reverse of a decade-old assignment strategy that identified certain students who would be bussed to schools in other parts of the county in an attempt to ensure no school had more than 40% of its students who qualified for free or reduced lunches.
Considering Colbert’s brutal yet entertaining satire on the situation, I have to point out that he, like many others, have been focusing only on select facts in this case. The NAACP and other civil rights organizations misrepresent the situation as “going backwards” and “resegregation.” However, the Wake school board majority is, in no way, claiming a desire to reverse the free integration of schools. Instead, it’s trying to reverse a school assignment strategy that’s not only an expensive (and environmentally unfriendly) approach to assignment, but also for which there is absolutely no data indicating an improved quality of education for students.
Furthermore, isn’t the assignment strategy, itself, a form of systematic discrimination? I mean, it requires forcing individuals to do something they might not want to do solely on the basis of economic status. How is that not discrimination?
So let’s summarize… Wake is trying to trim its budget by putting aside an expensive and ineffective program, and it is no longer assigning people to schools based on race or socio-economic status. Because it has ended a form of systematic discrimination, it is now accused of racism and bigotry.
It certainly isn’t easy for a poorer family to move into a wealthier area. The words and actions of civil rights organizations, though, suggest that poorer students are entitled to attending school with wealthier students, all at the taxpayers’ expense. Has Wake County been in its bubble of prosperity and entitlement so long it has lost its sense of logic and reason? This program is a privilege, not an entitlement. If people want a “diversity” assignment policy to continue, shouldn’t they work to find a reasonable no-cost compromise instead of focusing so much energy on their hatred for those who want to end the policy?
Personally, part of me wants to laugh at how pretentious the civil rights organizations in Wake County are being. I grew up in the north part of neighboring Johnston County. There, my small 1-A high school was not only 10 miles from home, but also an additional 15 miles from the next available high school (a 4-A) in the same system. That was average at that time, though some students lived over 15 miles from their closest middle or high school. Johnston County couldn’t have afforded a socio-economic school assignment program like Wake County, nor could they have reasonably implemented it. So I have a difficult time finding sympathy for Wake County students when the lowest rated school in Wake County still had more resources than my high school had back in 1991, before Wake’s “diversity” assignment policy was implemented. (Despite all that, I think most of us turned out alright.
But I digress. I’ll just end this post by saying that the attacks on the current Wake school board are getting out of hand. People need to calm down, take a deep breath, get all the facts, and look at the big picture.