This will come as no surprise, but one of Raleigh’s most visible right-wingers is oversimplifying the Wake School diversity debate. In his daily column published on Monday, John Hood incorrectly characterized the debate as a “busing” issue. This is simply inaccurate. The Wake schools controversy is not about busing. It is about school excellence.
Several experts have already established that diversity is a necessary part of school excellence. Unfortunately, Hood troubles himself with using only one criterion, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s rise in test scores for economically disadvantaged students, to supposedly demonstrate why Wake’s school board made the correct decision in dismantling its diversity policy with nothing to replace it.
CMS’s success should not be understated. It is fantastic that some economically disadvantaged students have been doing better on tests. The students deserve all of the credit for striving to be excellent. These students probably know that their success cannot be attributed solely to “neighborhood schools,” if at all. In fact, they probably understand that there are several issues that led to their increased scores. To put it simply, unlike Hood, they would not oversimplify.
Perhaps they would be able to point to the fact that CMS puts a lot of extra money into early childhood education. Hood did not address that point. Maybe they understand the hypocrisy of decrying what Hood describes as “language and tactics of the civil rights movement” while using the segregationist term “forced busing.” It is possible that they recognize that just because John Hood says there is not a legal argument against the change in policy does not mean that there are not several legal arguments. Maybe they would say that research should be done to see why the scores have increased.
While I am sure that the students in CMS have a friendly competition with Wake County, they probably do not strike the almost celebratory tone Hood seems to favor when discussing the CMS scores as compared to Wake. They probably do not wish any educational harm to students who look like, live like and suffer through poverty like they do. It may be likely that CMS students would look for solutions before looking to claim a victor in the diversity/school excellence debate.
To be sure, Wake County’s system has work to do to become truly excellent. There was work to be done before the distraction of the false “forced busing” issue was concocted. There was also an awful lot to be proud of such as the fact that Newsweek ranked all of Wake County’s high schools among the top 6% of public high schools in the country.
Ultimately, one would hope that the students in both districts would say that we should rely upon solid, comprehensive research to find out how all North Carolina schools can improve instead of falling back on the lame ideological attacks on “liberals” or manufacturing a contrived competition between school systems.