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.
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?
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.