It looks like we've got a big public showdown coming at Tuesday's Wake County school board meeting.
In response to N.C. Americans for Prosperity's call for a rally to support the new board, critics of the new majority are urging their side to turn out as well Tuesday.
"We have to be at the meeting in stronger numbers than the anti-diversity crowd!" writes Matthew Brown, a spokesman for the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children. "As we know, it is easier for politicians to do questionable things when there is a large mob cheering them on. We have to be in the seats before they can take them all!"
Brown made his pitch in an e-mail message sent Wednesday night to supporters of the diversity policy.
Brown credits the large turnout by supporters of the diversity policy with causing the board on Dec. 1 to send changes in the student assignment policy to committee rather than adopting them on first reading.
Brown says in the message that turnout is needed again next week.
"December 15 may be our best opportunity to slow the Board down and give them a chance to study all the implications of dismantling the diversity policy," Brown writes in the message.
You may have seen Thursday on WRAL about BiggerPicture4Wake getting a permit to hold a protest on Tuesday. That's not quite the case, according to Maria Mauriello, a leader of the group.
Mauriello said they got the permit so that supporters of the diversity policy can legally congregate outside the building if there aren't enough seats inside.
Here's Brown's e-mail message:
Please read the following message, consider how much we love our beautiful diverse community, share the message with your friends who feel the same way, and come help us preserve our schools!
NOW IS THE TIME TO COME TO THE AID OF OUR SCHOOLS!
WHAT: Meeting of Wake County School Board
WHEN: Tuesday, Dec. 15, 3:00 until ?(get there early if possible!)
WHERE: Board Room, Wake County Schools HQ, 3600 Wake Forest Rd. , Raleigh
It is likely that decisions will be made at the December 15 School Board meeting that will have serious impact on our children and our community. At the December 1 meeting, the new majority of the Board almost adopted a motion to dismantle the diversity policy that has been the bedrock of the success of the Wake County Public Schools, the prosperity of Wake County , and the health of Raleigh ’s older neighborhoods. Only the large crowd of passionate advocates in the audience and the indignant protests of the other board members caused the new majority to pause, and send the changes to the Policy Committee.
December 15 may be our best opportunity to slow the Board down and give them a chance to study all the implications of dismantling the diversity policy.
But after being embarrassed by the powerful arguments and large numbers of good citizens at the December 1 meeting, the anti-diversity folks are planning to pack the Board Room this time! The right-wing group “Americans For Prosperity” are planning a rally in front of the building at 2:30, and will then enter the meeting. (Americans for Prosperity was founded by an oil industry exec, and is the group that led the “tea parties” against health care, etc.)
WHAT WE NEED TO DO:
BE THERE! We have to be at the meeting in stronger numbers than the anti-diversity crowd! As we know, it is easier for politicians to do questionable things when there is a large mob cheering them on. We have to be in the seats before they can take them all! In fact, although AFP have announced their rally at 2:30, who knows what will actually happen. I plan to be there by 1:00, but 2:00 will probably be fine. The Committee of the Whole meets in a smaller room from 1:00 to 2:45. This includes all the board members, and can be very interesting. But if you go, be sure to slip out early to get a seat in the big room! During the meeting, be polite and respectful. You can applaud at appropriate times and gasp at appropriate times, but don’t shout or jeer. The chairman is allowed to cut off the public hearing if it becomes too unruly.
SPEAK TO THE BOARD! Those of us who are willing and inspired should speak at the board meeting! Members of the public are allowed to speak for up to three minutes each, so long as they have signed up on the sign-up sheet beforehand. There are usually two sign-up sheets: one for items on the agenda, and one for items not on the agenda. You will have to write your name, address and topic. Usually the chairman calls first for speakers addressing items on the agenda, in the order they signed up. The agenda hasn’t been published yet, but we certainly expect the diversity policy to be on it. And even if it does not appear on the published agenda, it can be added to the agenda during the meeting! As you speak, you will see a yellow light when you have 30 seconds left, and a red light when your three minutes are up.
1:00-2:45 Committee of the Whole meets in the Board Conference room
Around 1:00 (usually): the sign-up sheet for speakers is placed outside the Board Room.
3:00 Full Board meeting begins in Board Room (big auditorium)
4:00 (usually) Members of public are allowed to speak, if previously signed up
WHAT WE NEED TO SAY:
We want to win over the new board members with facts, data, fresh perspectives, larger viewpoints, heartwarming stories, love for community, care for children, desire to succeed. We should be polite and respectful. We should be clear and concise. We should appeal to the new board members’ best intentions. They are intelligent successful people. Although we may disagree with them on this issue, they clearly have support from a lot of people, including some reasonable people. Consider their point of view. Their voters are not liberals from downtown neighborhoods. Their voters are suburban conservatives. At the end of this message are some points to consider in making your arguments. Feel free to use these points, but also feel free to be yourself and bring your own perspective to this issue! It would be wise to have several things prepared to say, in case a speaker before
you makes the point you intended to make!
DO: Persuade, enlighten, inspire, charm, clarify, fascinate, warn
DON’T: Insult, antagonize, bore, alienate, disrespect, lie, belittle, repeat other speakers
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Q: Isn’t it too late? These people won the election, they are going to do what they want.
A: It is normal, even noble, for people to change perspective when they evolve from being a candidate to being an elected official, and have a chance to see all the facts and see the bigger picture. This has actually happened on the School Board before. The bottom line is that the school board wants to be a SUCCESS. We need to show them that dismantling the diversity policy will lead to FAILURE.
Q: Is the magnet system in jeopardy?
A. The new board majority has said they will not dismantle the magnets, but the magnet system is closely tied to the diversity policy. They have talked about adding magnets, which would dilute those currently in place. The answer is “nobody knows.”
Q: Where should we park?
A: There is a big parking lot at the Wake County Schools HQ. If it is full, there are plenty of offices and stores nearby with parking lots.
Q: Should we rally before the meeting?
A: Some say we should rally to show support. Some say we shouldn’t, because that puts us on “their level.” Some probably will. I hope the students do. If you rally, be polite and respectful; don’t be a jeering mob. And make sure you get a seat in the Board Room before the meeting begins!
Q: Will the media be there?
A: There will be heavy media coverage. If a member of the media asks you a question, make sure you give an answer you would be proud to see in the paper or on TV!
Q: How long will the meeting last?
A: Nobody knows! The last meeting lasted seven hours!
Q: What if I can’t get there until 3:00 or later?
A: Come anyway! If there is no room at the beginning of the meeting, there will definitely be room after folks begin to leave! And if you have to wait outside, perhaps you will have an opportunity to share your viewpoint with others.
Q: What else should we expect?
A: EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED! This could be the meeting of a lifetime! Passions are high and the stakes are higher!
Q: What else should I do?
A: Spread the word to your friends who share your values and care about our community!
STAY TUNED! ALL OF THIS IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE!
SOME FACTS, DATA & OPINIONS TO CONSIDER:
Most recent reassignment in the public schools was due to growth. The Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area was the number one fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States , according to the census bureau’s most recent estimate.
Eliminating the diversity policy will not save money on busing. Even though Mecklenburg County has abandoned its diversity policy, it spends more on busing than Wake County : Last year Mecklenburg spent $52.5 million, and Wake only spent $35.8 million. And Mecklenburg is a smaller county: Mecklenburg is 526 square miles; Wake is 832 square miles.
Since Mecklenburg County has dismantled its diversity policy, it has had to pump a lot of extra money into its high-poverty schools to make up for their disadvantages. Last year Mecklenburg spent overall $8,595 per student, while Wake only spent $8,117 per student. That’s a difference of $478 per student. With 140,000 students, that adds up to over $68 million!
Mecklenburg’s abandonment of its diversity policy has caused many middle-class families to leave the public schools. This year’s enrollment in Mecklenburg ’s public schools is actually lower than last year’s, and is now lower than enrollment in Wake’s public schools. However, Mecklenburg has a much higher enrollment in its private schools than Wake County : 33% higher.
Wake County’s diversity policy has insured that all of our schools are good schools, and has earned us national acclaim. The quality of our schools has been one of the chief reasons Wake County is on the top of the various “best places to live” lists. This has brought us prosperity and jobs. Companies and families want to relocate here because they know we have a well-educated work force, and because they know they can live anywhere in the county and attend good public schools.
The Wake County schools are a tremendous bargain. Despite our low spending, our students consistently score among the highest in the state. Wake County ’s spending per pupil ranked 85th among the 115 school systems in the state, but our 2009 SAT scores were the 4th highest among the 115 school systems.
The data nationwide and in North Carolina is unequivocal that unless a school system makes a positive effort to integrate schools, the schools will segregate along racial and economic lines. The Mecklenburg school system abandoned its diversity policy eight years ago, and already some schools there have 95% students from low-income families. Many metropolitan areas have completely segregated schools because they have been allowed to gradually segregate over many years.
Research and experience show that residential patterns follow school population patterns. If the Wake County schools segregate, it will cause economic decline in the eastern and southern parts of the county, and more crowding in the northern and western parts.
A sound education in the modern world requires that a student be exposed to students from other races, backgrounds, and economic circumstances.
A healthy society requires that different elements of the society interact. It is projected that America will not have a majority race by the year 2050. We cannot prosper and grow as a nation if our different racial groups are segregated from each other for the first 18 years of their lives. We have seen around the world what happens to countries whose ethnic groups are segregated.
The North Carolina Constitution Article IX, section 2, subsection (1) provides for a uniform system of free public schools “wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.” A child attending a high-poverty school and a child attending a diverse school will not have equal opportunities. High poverty schools have lower academic standards, more discipline problems, more crime and drugs, and more difficulty hiring and keeping good teachers.
The abandonment of the diversity policy would require the immediate reassignment of approximately 25,000 students, which would be very disruptive to families, children, teachers and communities. It would also be very expensive; to pay for it would require cutting other expenditures, as there is no proposal to increase the school system’s budget.
If every student were assigned to his or her closest school, some schools would be three quarters empty and some schools would have twice as many students as could fit in the building.
Magnet schools save money by 1) offering classes that it would not be economical to offer at every school, and 2) filling schools that would otherwise be underutilized.
Magnet schools take students out of overcrowded neighborhood schools, so that more nearby students can attend those schools.
Magnet schools bring middle-class students to low-income areas, along with their parents who can afford to volunteer and donate to the PTAs.
The School Board’s responsibility is not just to the 21,684 people who voted for the four new members in the last election. It is also to the 140,000 students in the Wake County public schools, to all 866,410 citizens of Wake County , to all our posterity, and to the principles of justice and fairness.
The Wake County School System’s success is based on the complicated interrelationship of the diversity policy, the magnet program, year-round schools, and many other systems and policies that have been carefully developed over many years. If it is torn asunder in haste, it may take decades to recover. It may never recover. America has thousands of school systems that were once great, but made a few mistakes and have never recovered.