The crusade in Wake County continues

The crusade in Wake County continues

- in Fitzsimon File

It has been clear since the members of the Gang of Five majority assumed control of the Wake County Board of Education six months ago that their drive to end the school system's nationally recognized diversity policy was not about just the way kids were assigned to school.

It was from the beginning a carefully orchestrated ideological crusade to dismantle one of the nation's best urban school systems that despite a few small bumps in the right wing road has proceeded as planned, culminating in the final vote against the diversity policy Tuesday night.

The first meeting of the new board's reign in December set the stage for this week's devastating retreat to resegregation. The Gang of Five brought forward and passed and policy resolutions that were not listed on the agenda, not shared with other board members, and not announced to the parents of Wake County that the new board members claimed to care so much about.  

From that day in early December until this Tuesday, the members of the Gang of Five have refused to consider the compelling and indisputable evidence that their crusade would damage the schools and make it harder to help the poor kids who are struggling to learn.

They have continued to ignore the wishes of parents who have packed every meeting and begged the board to listen. They have shoved aside the results of a parent survey that was a central part of their campaign rhetoric after it found that 94.5 percent of parents were satisfied with their child's schools, not exactly a mandate for an overhaul of student assignments.

The Gang of Five now acts like the survey they were so keen on conducting never happened.

They have ignored the calls from citizen groups and civil rights organizations to slow down and involve the community in shaping the direction of the schools but found the time to speak at a tea party rally to promote their right-wing agenda.

The board members who ran promoting fiscal responsibility have wasted $15 million by abandoning a site for a new high school. They have hired another lawyer and are spending $100,000 on finding a new superintendent after Del Burns resigned because of the troubling direction of the new board.  And all this while promising to devote more resources to the poor schools they are creating in the worst budget crisis in a generation.

At times, their reaction to criticism has bordered on the incomprehensible.  Gang of Fiver John Tedesco has repeatedly admitted that his still vague zone scheme would create high poverty schools that by definition will be largely African-American, but then continues to deny that his plan will result in resegregation.

Board Chair Ron Margiotta said again Tuesday that the schools would not be segregated, agreeing with the Tedesco who is at the meetings not the Tedesco who talks differently between them.

Tedesco had the gall Tuesday to invoke the historic Brown desegregation decision to support his plan that is a direct and offensive violation of its spirit and intent.

The final indication that the members of the Gang of Five are listening more to the anti-public school ideologues who fund them than the community they are supposed to represent came Tuesday when they refused to support a modest proposal from Board member Ann McLaurin.

McLaurin said she would vote to end the current assignment policy if the majority agreed to an amendment saying that the system would not allow the new plan to segregate the schools and that no school would have more than 50 percent poor students.

The Gang of Five refused to support the amendment that merely stated what they have promised will not happen, and so the diversity policy has been abandoned for now, the first stage of the crusade comes to a close, and the resegregation of the schools begins.  

Let's hope the efforts to resist it are redoubled before permanent damage to students, schools, and the community is done.

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.