Fitzsimon File

The ideological march backwards rolls on in Wake County

Not long after the Gang of Five majority on the Wake County School Board voted Tuesday night to end the system's nationally recognized diversity policy, Board Chair Ron Margiotta told reporters who asked about the resegregation that will result, "We have laws, we have court rulings, we have morality. That's something that would never be tolerated by anyone on the school board."

Margiotta either doesn't understand the implications of the vote he had just cast, which is highly unlikely, or he would rather continue to mislead the public about the consequences of the disastrous decision.

More high-poverty, resegregated schools are coming in Wake County. Gang of Five member John Tedesco, who has devised a still unseen rich zone, poor zone plan to replace the current policy, readily admits it. His proposal would create schools with high concentrations of poverty, which unfortunately means that they would also be overwhelmingly African-American.

That is simply a fact that Margiotta refuses to acknowledge and that much of the media coverage of the issue presents as only the view of the critics of the Gang of Five.

The decision comes in the face of overwhelming evidence that the resegregation will make learning more difficult for poor and minority students, evidence cited by many speakers at the public hearing that was part of Tuesday's meeting.

Tedesco says the resegregation will be addressed with more funding for high poverty schools, an approach that has failed miserably in systems where it has been tried, and there's no extra money in Wake County anyway.

The vote for resegregation came only a few hours after Tedesco and his fellow board members heard the details of the proposed school budget for next year that includes $20 million in budget cuts and layoffs of 83 people.

And that does not take into account the $15 million the new board voted to waste by abandoning a proposed site for a new high school in Northern Wake County or the money the new board voted to spend to hire an additional attorney, one with close ties to the Republican Party.

But a sharp disconnect between the reality and the pandering rhetoric of the Gang of Five is nothing new. Debra Goldman read a prepared statement at the meeting detailing all the pain that she said the current assignment policy causes for parents who can't send their kids to the nearest school.

But when the Wake Education Partnership recently released a report detailing the chaos and segregation that would result from assigning every student to the closest school, Goldman called the report preposterous.

Last Wednesday, Goldman declined to approve a resolution ending the current assignment policy and directed the board and staff to gather data for a working session to discuss the possible changes. Two days later she co-authored the resolution that the Gang of Five approved Tuesday night and said the board needed to make a determination "once and for all" about the direction to head.

The research and thoughtful debate about that direction that seemed important to her on Wednesday was no longer important Friday or Tuesday when ideology took over.

There's no other way to interpret the Gang of Five's contradicting claims and refusal to thoughtfully consider the ramifications of their decisions as they rush them through the board with little or no public notice or debate.

As if to pound that point home to doubters, after voting to end the diversity policy and resegregate the schools, the Gang of Five voted to hire the right-wing, pro-voucher Civitas Institute to provide board trainings.

Civitas is not only funded by conservative ideologue Art Pope, its board is chaired by pro-voucher and private school operator Robert Luddy, who was the largest single individual contributor to the campaigns of the four Gang of Fivers elected last fall.

The battle against undoing decades of progress in Wake County schools is not over. Supporters of diversity will not go away, as NAACP President William Barber made clear at Tuesday's meeting, leading the crowd of parents in an impromptu rally after the vote for resegregated schools.

Tedesco says it will take several months to develop a new assignment plan, giving the 94.5 percent of Wake County parents who said in a survey that they were satisfied with their child's school time to insist that the board make its decisions based on evidence and data about what's best for Wake County students.

But it's an uphill battle. The members of Gang of Five made it clear again Tuesday night that they will let nothing stand in the way of their rigid right-wing resegregationist march, regardless of what it does to our students or our community.