March madness in Wake County

March madness in Wake County

- in Fitzsimon File

The ideological march backwards in Wake County rolled on Tuesday as the Gang of Five majority on the Board of Education voted again to resegregate the schools by ending the system's nationally recognized diversity policy.

The vote to shift to a still undefined rich zone, poor zone student assignment scheme came despite passionate pleas from parents, protests from students, and a poll authorized by the Gang of Five that found that 94.5 percent of Wake County families are currently satisfied with their children's school.

And it came despite a mountain of virtually unchallenged education research, brought to the board's attention again at a weekend forum, that the vote will make it far more difficult for poor students in Wake County to succeed.

If there were any lingering doubts left that the members of the board's majority were on an ideological crusade as they bowed to the wishes of their right-wing campaign contributors and wealthy anti-public education zealots and the think-tanks they fund, they were erased Tuesday as the Gang of Five fought off attempts by the board minority to slow down the rush to resegregation.

Gang of Fiver John Tedesco, the architect of the undefined and unexplained zone scheme, bristled at suggestions that the majority's plan would divide the schools along racial lines, calling segregation a sin, then voting for a plan that he admits will increase the number of high-poverty schools that will be overwhelmingly African-American.

Gang of Fiver Chris Malone said that "everybody believes in diversity" even as he voted against it. The majority rejected attempts to delay the vote and study the empirical evidence about the effects of creating more high-poverty schools and turned away an amendment to require that the new plan come with a cost assessment.

The majority that campaigned with calls for fiscal responsibility apparently doesn't want to know how much their assignment overhaul would cost or doesn't want to tell us, even as the schools face a $20 million budget shortfall and are planning layoffs and cutbacks in services.

This irresponsibility comes just a few weeks after the Gang of Five voted to waste $15.5 million by abandoning a planned site for a new high school that a panel of experts said was the best alternative available.

Gang of Fiver Debra Goldman, who rejected the call for a price tag on Tedesco's resegregation scheme and supported throwing away the $15.5 million, has asked questions about the cost of the school system's Sam's Club membership. At least her priorities are straight.

Tuesday's vote for resegregation came at a meeting that Mark Dorosin with the UNC Center for Civil Rights say violated the letter and the spirit of the state's open meetings laws, as citizens were required to have a ticket to attend.

The meeting violated more than that. If you had wandered in without any background at all, you might have thought it was one of those historical reenactments, this one held in a local government meeting room instead of a Civil War battlefield.

An all-white majority voting over the protests of demonstrators and civil rights leaders to pack poor and minority kids into high-poverty schools on the poor side of town and insultingly claiming, like their historical predecessors, that it's in the best interests of all the children when they surely know it's not true.

Shame on them.

And let's hope they find that now, like 50 years ago, their decision to separate the community to serve their narrow and outdated ideological interests will not stand.

About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.