Local attorney Neil Riemann is disputing Wake County school board member John Tedesco's contentions that the old socioeconomic diversity policy led to white flight.
In a post Saturday on his Wake Reassignment blog, Riemann takes aim at Tedesco for comments he made in a column that ran earlier this month in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Tedesco was quoted as blaming the diversity policy for the district's F&R rate being triple the county's overall poverty rate and for doubling the percentage of people opting out of the district in the past 10 years.
"The affluent are not fleeing to private schools due to the diversity policy, assignment uncertainty, calendar changes, or anything else," Riemann writes. "No one is fleeing, because Wake County’s opt-out rate is essentially unchanged and has not doubled in ten years from 9% to 18%."
The first part of Riemann's argument is that you can't equate the percentage of kids receiving subsidized lunches with the poverty rate. He notes how the guidelines for subsidized lunches allow you to receive it when you're at 185 percent of the poverty line.
School districts across the country have used F&R numbers as a measure of low-income students for years.
Riemann approximates, using Census data, that 16 percent of Wake students are below the poverty line.
"Does this difference between the actual number and the expected number mean that the affluent are fleeing the public schools?" Riemann writes. "Again, no."
He also challenges the opt-out rate having increased so much in the past decade. Based on his data, the percentage of kids opting out for home schools and private schools has changed in Wake from 13.3 percent to 14.5 percent over the past decade.
His figures are a little off because he doesn't include kids in charter schools. Still the change isn't as dramatic as Tedesco said in the column.
Several years ago, I had crunched those numbers for 2000-01 and found Wake's market share then was 84.7 percent. I crunched them again over the summer and found it to be 82.9 percent for the 2009-10 school year.
Wake's market share was over 90 percent in 1996 before charter schools and home schools opened.
Riemann closed out his post by saying the approximate poverty level in Charlotte-Mecklenburg's schools compared to the county's poverty rate is much wider than it is in Wake.
"So if assignment plans determine who opts out of our public schools, and your goal is to retain affluent students, which plan would you rather have?" he writes.
I forgot to mention Tuesday night that Tedesco had replied on Riemann's blog. Click here to view.