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Last week the Department of Public Instruction-Exceptional Children Programs presented to the Education Oversight Committee a report detailing the current state of educational service models for students with disabilities.  During this presentation it was revealed that 4 LEA's in 2006-2007 did not graduate a single student with a disability.  The report also disclosed that fewer than 42% of students with disabilities did not attain a Level III score or better on the End-of-Course tests. 

Late today we received the full, eighteen page report from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Exceptional Children Programs.   How many students with disabilities dropped out last year? 4,050. How many students graduated with a diploma? 5,179. How many students received a certificate? 1,011.  How do these dropout numbers compare to previous reports? In 2003-2004 there were 3,876 dropouts, and in 2004-2005 there were 3,799.  These numbers are based on youth with IEP's.

Who were those four LEA's that did not graduate a single student with a disability, and how many students were affected?  Now we know.  The 4 LEAs had a total drop out number of 56 students.  Scotland County had all 38 of its students with disabilities drop out.  That is 100%.  Scotland County was joined by Chatham County (4), Graham County (6) and Franklin County (8).  What was not mentioned in the presentation, but was included in the report was that five Charter schools also had a 100% drop out rate for students with disabilities.  These Charter schools are Central Park (1), Chatham Charter (1), Crossroads Charter High (2), Sandhills Theatre Arts Renaissance (1), and Woods Charter (1).

Three LEA's and eight Charter schools did manage to have 100% of students with disabilities exit with either a diploma or a certificate in 2006-2007.  The LEAs are Thomasville City Schools (9), Tyrrell County Schools (8), and Camden Schools (3).  The Charter schools are CG Woodson School of Challenge (1), East Wake Academy (2), Gray Stone Day (1), Hawbridge School (6), Kennedy Charter (5), Pace Academy (12), Raleigh Charter High (12), and River Mill Academy (3).

These sixty two children attending these four LEA's and Charter schools are just tip of the iceberg.  There are over 4,000 students with disabilities who did not get a cap and gown last year, who did not hear pomp and circumstance, and who did not receive a diploma or a certificate from their high school.  Clearly, we need to continue to challenge our schools to do more for students with disabilities, who deserve and should demand equitable educational opportunity. 

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 In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that school districts can no longer use race as a basis for school assignments.

The decision in cases affecting schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle could imperil similar plans in hundreds of districts nationwide, and it further restricts how public school systems may attain racial diversity.  (Washington Post )

How will this decision affect schools in North Carolina? Well, the state’s 2 largest school districts, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake County changed to ‘race neutral’ assignment schemes during 1999-2001.

Popular forms of race-neutral assignment plans include lotteries, socioeconomic status based, geographic proximity and pure choice. These methods have had mixed results.

Since 2002 when Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools implemented a neighborhood-based, limited-choice student assignment plan:

  • The number of hypersegregated schools (schools with more than 90% minority enrollment) more than doubled.
  • The number of segregated schools jumped from 47 to 87 in 2004-2005
  • African-American students effectively lost access to oversubscribed predominantly white schools.
  • There has been no overall progress in black student achievement between 2002 and 2004. 60% of African American high school students failed state accountability tests as compared to 23% of white students.

Wake County schools, which used a socioeconomic status based plan, have not resegregated at the same rate as some districts. However, racial diversity has declined since the adoption of the socioeconomic plan in 2000.

  • In 2003, 39% of African-American students attended a school that had 50% or more minority enrollment, compared to 21% of African-American students in 1999.

The unique demographics of Wake County account for the relative success of the race-neutral assignment plan:

  • Wake County is one of only six counties (out of 100) in North Carolina that have a family poverty rate less than 10%, coupled with a significant racial disparity between poor and non-poor families.
  • African American and Latino students are 10 times more likely to be eligible for free/reduced lunch than white students.

Counties that are not as socioeconomically polarized will have a difficult time replicating Wake County’s diversification success.

Today’s Supreme Court decision certainly throws an interesting twist into the state’s efforts to provide educational equality. School assignment decisions are no longer black and white, but rather rich and poor.

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If you’ve noticed, there’s a lot of public apologizing going on these days. Several presidential candidates, including John Edwards, have apologized for their earlier positions on the Iraq war. The state democratic party has apologized for its role in the 1898 Wilmington riot. The state apologized to all the women sterilized under the state’s eugenics program. Now, Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand has proposed legislation that would provide a formal apology for the state’s role in slavery and Jim Crow.

Legislators from both sides of the aisle are jumping on the apology bandwagon. But their ‘sorry’ rings hollow in my ears. I’m skeptical of legislators’ eagerness to express “profound regret” for mistakes of the past while so many injustices of the present are overlooked.

The remnants of social inequality created by slavery and segregation remain in our state today. You only have to look at our state’s statistics on health, education or economic security to see them. So if legislators genuinely wanted to make amends for these social injustices, they should address the inequality issues in North Carolina. Actions speak louder than words.

Sen. Malcolm Graham, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, said he wants to see more concrete actions.

“I understand the spirit in reference to the resolution, and I’m going to support it, but I want to see some substance in terms of public policy that backs that apology up,” he said. “We need public policy. (Raleigh News & Observer)

A good starting point for legislative action is the HKonJ 14 point agenda put forth by the NC NAACP and endorsed by 70 other organizations. This agenda calls for policies that address inequalities in education, health access, criminal justice, employment and housing. This agenda gives legislators an opportunity to do more than say they’re sorry; it gives them an opportunity to mean it.

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wedding ringLet’s get one thing straight…the sanctity of my marriage is just fine, thank you very much.  How hard is this to understand:  the only  people who can dishonor the vows of a married couple are the two people involved.  If you feel like your marriage is so weak that you have to discriminate against others to make you feel better about yourself, then you have more problems than a “Gay Marriage Amendment” can solve.

Of course, “preserving the sanctity of marriage” was in the news this week with a demonstration in downtown Raleigh..  As reported in the News&Observer,  thousands of self-described Evangelical Christians congregated at the Legislative Building in spirited support of the NC Marriage Amendment.  (This is a group one would think would be aware of the dangers of mob rule.  For reference, see Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ).  Amid shouts of  “Let Us Vote!”  the protesters are pushing for a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.  I guess the existing North Carolina law (“Marriage is a union between a woman and a man”) is not discriminatory enough for the endangered marriages of the protesters.

The protesters seem to place much emphasis on their claims that a majority of North Carolinians favor the bill.  That is unfortunate, because they have a fundamental misunderstanding of the American system of government:

“The American system of government is founded on two counterbalancing principles:  that the majority of the people governs, through democratically elected representatives; and that the power even of a democratically elected majority must be limited, to ensure individual rights.

Majority power is limited by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which consists of the original ten amendments ratified in 1791, plus the three post-Civil War amendments (the 13th, 14th, and 15th) and the 19th (women’s suffrage), adopted in 1920.”

If valuing the Bill of Rights seems just and fair and important to you, go here to read the rest of the mission statement of the American Civil Liberties Union.

It is estimated that 5% of the population is gay.  Do we really need to constitutionally scold 400,000 North Carolina citizens in a misguided attempt to protect us from our own insecurities?  If we allow felons to marry while in prison, can’t we extend the same courtesy to our law-abiding, tax-paying brothers and sisters?  Just as America now feels shame about our prejudiced views on inter-racial marriages, I believe we will regret our indecent stand on gay marriage.

Addendum:  I hesitate to link to them to confer any legitimacy to this cause, but I wonder if this organization even realizes the hypocrisy of their divisive message at the same moment their website proclaims “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”   Go here, if you must.

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HKonJHK on J – “Historic Thousands on Jones Street” in Raleigh last weekend – sparked an awesome online display of videos and photos, links to news coverage and to the websites of the more than 60 coalition partners who participated. Let’s keep the momentum going, and make sure this was not just a moment, but is truly a movement to change North Carolina for the better. Connect online, peruse this interactive site, introduce yourself, add your voice, your reflections on last weekend’s event, or what it portends for the future.

Go to www.hkonj.com