Elections could change school system

September 30, 2009 4:14:38 AM PDT
Wake County school board elections less than a week away and the candidates are making last minute arguments.Parents say there is a lot to think about before they choose who will represent their area on the Wake County School Board. Four out of nine seats are up for grabs.

One of the hot topics in the election is about the long talked about diversity policy and how it will play a part in the election.

Wake County School's diversity policy allows it to shuffle kids between schools. But now, criticism is pouring in from parents like Amy White, one of many voters who will vote for Wake County school board members next week.

"In Garner, what we've seen is that we had open seats and we had folks that were bused out of their own neighborhoods to fill seats in our schools and our schools no longer reflected the demographics in our community," White said.

She used to be on the board, but as a parent she said there are a disproportionate number of free and reduced lunch kids in Garner.

"You know, that whole argument between community schools or a diversity policy, what Garner really wants is just a better balance," she said.

Harvey Schmitt with the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce said the diversity policy is working and is part of what helps attract businesses and economic growth.

"Economic diversity policy of the county has been a very strong component of the economic success of the region," Schmitt said. "To be able to show a very strong public school system county wide has been an asset that we have marketed and have spoken favorably about before."

Both said they would be watching as the new school board takes shape.

"We're interested in seeing a little better balance with our students in our schools and we hope that we'll have someone at the table that will be an advocate for them," Schmitt said.

"It's really not the choice between good and bad," White added. "These are choice of two good values, one neighborhood schools and the other, equality for all and what we're looking for here is what's best for the most."

After the votes are counted on Oct. 6, school board members will take over a rapidly growing district.

School officials released the 20th day numbers Tuesday afternoon. Right now, more than 140,000 students are in Wake County classrooms, nearly 1,900 more than last year.

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