State legislators will be focusing on the issue of diversity in public schools in light of the controversy taking place in Wake County.
As noted in today's article, the General Assembly approved the creation of a legislative study commission on diversity in public schools. The commission could recommend school districts adopt diversity policies and maybe even suggest changing the way the state funds schools to encourage those kind of busing efforts.
The reason for the state attention, backers acknowledge, is all the talk about the Wake school board scrapping the socioeconomic diversity policy.
“Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, we need to look at what Wake is doing,” said state Rep. Rick Glazier, a Cumberland County Democrat who had proposed the commission. “This is an issue that is truly important. This is one of the most successful and largest districts in the country making a major change, and the question is why?”
The new commission’s charges include seeing the effect diverse schools have on closing the achievement gap, parental involvement and student discipline. The commission will also see how diverse schools do academically compared to schools with homogeneous populations.
From there, the commission is supposed to evaluate how school funding is distributed in light of the data on school diversity.
Your view on the commission seems to depend on what you think about the changes taking place in Wake
The Great Schools in Wake Coalition has been a big backer of the study from when it was initially included in the state House version of the budget. GSIW chairwoman Yevonne Brannon is hoping the commission's recommendations will cause the school board majority to halt their plans.
“Sometimes you can’t legislate someone’s feelings but you can legislate their behavior,” Brannon said.
With diversity policy supporters so enthusiastic about the commission, it's probably not a
surprise that it's being viewed with skepticism by the school board majority and their backers.
School board member John Tedesco said Wake will still be one of the most diverse school districts in the state under community schools.
School board chairman Ron Margiotta said state legislators should better spend their time giving school districts more funding flexibility..
Terry Stoops, education policy analyst for the conservative John Locke Foundation said he believes the commission is primarily an effort by the pro-busing crowd to gather ammunition for the cause while beating up on Wake.
"We're going to have a commission that's ideologically driven by what's happening in Wake County," Stoops said. "That's unfortunate."
Claude Pope, chairman of the Wake County Republican Party, is pointing to how the 15 members of the commission will be appointed by Gov. Bev Perdue, state House Speaker Joe Hackney and state Senate leader Marc Basnight, all Democrats.
"You've got Democrats with an agenda to make them [Wake school board] look bad," Pope said. "They're not going to find anything that supports what the school board is doing because they don't want to find anything."