The diversity policy isn't the only difference separating Wake County school board members.
As noted in today's article, the board is also split about how to view charter schools, private schools and home schools. Members of the new board majority are more willing to embrace these educational alternatives even as they say they want to bring more families back into the school system.
“Honestly, I would like to see the public schools get involved with the charter schools and develop a better working relationship because of the way that they tend to be theme schools,” said school board chairman Ron Margiotta. “If we want to talk about it’s being competition, I welcome the competition.”
Margiotta is also on the board of the Thales Academy in Aoex, which is owned by conservative busiessman Bob Luddy. Margiotta says he sees no conflict being on both boards.
But Margiotta's involvement with Thales has been criticized by opponents of the new board majority. School board member Anne McLaurin also says Margiotta’s role with Luddy’s school goes directly against the proper role of board chair: “the system’s biggest cheerleader and largest standard-bearer.”
“What you should believe is our public education is as good as any out there, and if it’s not, you are going to make it that way,” McLaurin said.
McLaurin is also skeptical of the board majority's support for lifting the charter school cap and their willingness to even consider tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools.
For instance, board majority member John Tedesco says he would support tax breaks to help families afford private schools if their needs are better served that way.
“I’m not afraid of open market competition,” Tedesco said. “If they feel that that meets their specific needs, I could see tax breaks to allow them to do that.
Tedesco's view is echoed by Luddy and Art Pope. Luddy says the traditional primacy of public schools will dwindle under a challenge from private schools.
Luddy and Pope say they haven't talked to the new board majority about charter schools, home schools, private school tax credits or private school voucners. But the fact that both men gave so heavily in last fall's campaign to help the new majority get elected is a red flag for their opponents.
“We are all very concerned about it, because it seems that there’s an agenda there – to dismantle the public school system and make it less attractive for middle- and upper-class families,” said Maria Mauriello, a co-founder of BiggerPicture4Wake.