Commentary

Last week, the News & Observer’s Linda Darnell Williams contextualized the prospect of resegregation in Wake County Schools—which, as media reports have recently noted, is an increasingly real proposition not only in Wake County but around the country as deliberate efforts to diversify student populations in the wake of Brown v. Board of Ed begin to wane.

The news that Wake County is backing away from its diversity policy is “very sad,” [New York Times magazine reporter Nicole] Hannah-Jones said in a recent conversation. She noted that Wake’s economic diversity policy was held up as a national model.

Any move toward resegregation is distressing, she said, because “the record is very clear that when districts resegregate, education plummets without exception.”

All Wake has to do, she said, is look at Charlotte, which rapidly saw more racial segregation in schools after it was released from court-ordered busing.

The N&O’s Keung Hui recently reported that Wake County has seen a doubling in the number of racially-isolated and high poverty schools, which have increased by more than 150 percent in the last seven years.

In 2010 and 2011, a Republican-dominated Wake school board made changes that undid parts of a decade-old busing system intended to make Wake’s schools more diverse. Previously the county assigned students to schools sometimes far away from home in an effort to limit high concentrations of low-income student populations inside one school building.  Citing parental frustration over children attending schools far from home, the board dropped the socioeconomic diversity requirement from the county’s school assignment policy and adopted a ‘choice model’ that continued to cause confusion and controversy.

Today, Wake’s school board is now dominated by Democrats — but its members appear to be unwilling to reverse the previous board’s decisions. Citing the tumult parents parents and students endured from the old school assignment policies, the board seems to favor pouring more money into low-performing schools—which, as Keung reports, typically have high numbers of students from low-income families.

Darnell Williams says she’s worried that efforts to redirect extra resources to these newly resegregated schools won’t ultimately be a promise that’s kept.

Instead of taking action to foster integration, lawmakers and many school leaders promise additional resources to schools with concentrations of poor and minority students. The evidence is not convincing that sufficient resources are forthcoming. Talk of volunteers reading to low-income students is laudable, but it won’t have the impact of smaller classes and highly qualified teachers – resources that cost money.

Within the context of resegregation, it’s important to highlight the fact that North Carolina has entered into a new phase of school accountability. Schools are now awarded letter grades ranging from A-F based largely on students’ performance on standardized tests. Schools that perform poorly don’t get extra resources in this new system; they just get a slap on the wrist by way of requiring them to send a letter to parents informing them of their failing grades.

There’s a distinct correlation between racially isolated, high poverty schools and the likelihood they’ll receive a D or F from the state. Countless studies document the fact that poorer students perform worse than their richer counterparts on standardized tests. As such, schools with greater concentrations of low-income students will have a hard time getting As or Bs, unless lawmakers decide to change the metric to favor how students grow over time, rather than their performance on a test on only one day.

And when talking resegregation, also worth flagging is this: while North Carolina sees more and more predominantly high poverty schools reenter the picture, Rep. Rob Bryan is working behind the scenes on a proposal to allow for-profit charter school operators to take over failing public schools. While some say new approaches are necessary to interrupt the cycle of schools failing poor kids, others are concerned that allowing charter operators with fewer accountability requirements could do more harm than good.

Could a lack of willingness to keep schools diverse give way to to the privatization of North Carolina’s worst-performing schools?

Stay tuned.

News

Gay marriage 3The U.S. Supreme Court may be stepping back into the same-sex marriage debate sooner than expected, with a request late Friday by a county clerk in Kentucky, asking the court to stay lower court orders requiring her to perform marriages pending her appeal on the merits to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Rowan County Clerk, Kim Davis, stopped issuing any marriage licenses shortly after the high court’s decision in Obergfell v. Hodges in order to avoid doing so for same-sex couples — which she says would violate her religious beliefs.

A federal district court judge in Kentucky, David L. Bunning, ruled that Davis either had to start issuing marriage licenses to all couples or resign, and the Sixth Circuit refused to block that order while it considered the underlying merits of her appeal, saying that it found “little or no likelihood that the clerk in her official capacity [would] prevail” on those merits.

As SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston notes,”this would mark the first time that the Court has been asked to take any action on the spreading resistance, based on religious opposition, to the June 26 ruling opening marriage rights to same-sex couples.”

State lawmakers here codified that right to refuse based upon religious objection this session when it enacted the magistrate’s refusal bill, Senate Bill 2 — over a veto by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Here’s more from Denniston:

The application, when formally received, will go first to Justice Elena Kagan, who handles emergency filings from the Sixth Circuit.  She has the option of acting on the request alone, or instead sharing it with her colleagues — now the normal practice in most cases.

If, as is expected, her lawyers make the same arguments to the Justices that they have made in lower courts, Davis will be claiming that her First Amendment rights to exercise her religion protect her from having to issue marriage licenses that, to her, foster a violation of her faith.  She is claiming protection not only under the First Amendment religious freedom clause, but also under a Kentucky law that seeks to protect the exercise of religious freedom.

Read the Kentucky clerk’s full application in Davis v. Miller here.

News

Arguments over North Carolina’s 2011 redistricting maps will be back before the state Supreme Court this week. At the same time, America’s Journey for Justice will be making its presence known with several public events focused on voting rights.

This evening in Raleigh, the NC NAACP will hold a voting rights teach-in on the current fight against voter suppression. The teach-in begins at 7:00 p.m. at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough St. Raleigh.

On Tuesday, participants will hold simultaneous press conferences and letter deliveries in 17 cities across our state, urging elected representatives to support legislation before Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act.

“We’re asking them to put out a public statement of where they are,” explained NC NAACP President William Barber in a press conference.

“Own where you are. If you’re not for the Voting Rights Act, say it. If you’re for it, say it.”

Coming up Thursday, marchers will descend on Bicentennial Mall (16 W. Jones St. Raleigh) at 5:00 p.m for a massive voting rights rally.

Click below to watch North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber discuss Tuesday’s actions. Click here to learn more about this week’s activities associated with America’s Journey for Justice.

YouTube Preview Image
Commentary

There were two new and great editorial page “must reads” this past weekend on the state’s education wars.

Number One was Gene Nichol’s fine essay in Raleigh’s News & Observer on the public school teachers who continue to fight for their children and profession despite the ongoing assault by state lawmakers.

“I think [teachers NaShonsda] Cooke, [Angela] Scioli and [Brendan] Fetters knew what they were signing up for. This path has never been strewn with rose petals. I know they didn’t expect, however, to be officially derided for their efforts. ‘The elephant in the room,’ Fetters explains, ‘is the constant claim that we are failing our students.’

The politicians who accuse them, of course, never go to their schools, never talk to the teachers. They do, though, ‘take away our teaching assistants, run good teachers off to other states, give us bigger classes, cut our budgets and disparage our schools,’ Cooke says.

It’s not lost on teachers of high-poverty children that all the current political energy is directed toward vouchers and charter schools, draining already inadequate resources. They “evaluate us on matters outside of our control,” Cooke says, “pronounce us broken, and then make it tougher to do our work.”

Cooke’s own daughter attends one of the high-poverty Durham schools receiving an F on the state’s new scorecard. ‘I know the greatness of what they do in that school. I’d never move her,’ Cooke says. She gets angry when her daughter’s teachers are maligned by people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

It’s one thing, I suppose, to wage war on public education. It’s another to shamelessly defame in the process.”

You can read the rest by clicking here.

Essay #2 comes from the Greensboro News & Record and it takes down the absurd an inappropriate partisanship that marked the firing of UNC President Tom Ross (which has been confirmed recently in emails released to N.C. Policy Watch and other news outlets). As the N&R Notes:

“The indication of misguided and unfair partisan attitudes toward Ross raises concerns about the next president. The Board of Governors won’t serve the people of the state well if it limits its choices to only Republican candidates. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

We still don’t know exactly what kind of tax and budget deal will emerge from the legislature when it wraps up business in the coming weeks, but it will likely include another round of tax cuts for large multi-state corporations. We’ve also seen an alarming push to bake further tax reductions and spending limits into the state constitution, called TABOR, which would constitutionally mandate policy that we’ve never even tested through regular legislation, and which has been a proven failure in Colorado. Against this backdrop, remember that there is no evidence that tax cuts can solve the economic challenges that we face.

Tax cuts have not improved North Carolina wages. Now that we have recovered from the worst of the Great Recession, many economists see a lack of wage growth our most pressing economic challenge. Wages in North Carolina are even more stagnate than for the US as a whole, a problem that has not been solved by tax cuts over the last few years. The average hourly wage in North Carolina is now roughly $3 less than the national average, a gap that has actually widened since the first major round of recent tax cuts passed in 2013. Tax cuts have not solved our wage problem, and there’s no reason to expect that change.

Read More