Critics upset over Wake's decision to end diversity policy

March 3, 2010 8:45:19 PM PST
One day after the Wake County School Board members voted to end the busing-for-diversity policy, the North Carolina NAACP and other critics vow to keep up their fight. The board says the changes will be very gradual, but their opponents don't want the changes at all. They say they may take legal action.

"This is a racist, flawed, discriminatory past that we do not need to go back to," North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber said. "We need to be looking forward."

Barber says they will sue the Wake County Public School System if their new neighborhood school policy leads to re-segregation.

"We'll get a hold of the policy," Barber said. "We're going to examine it. We're going to be looking at everything that they do and when we feel they have run afoul of the constitution or the federal or state civil rights law, that's where we'll plant our feet and that's where we'll take our action."

The threat of one or multiple lawsuits is also concerning Wake County Commissioner Lindy Brown.

"I have to say, I do have some concern as I'm hearing out in the community, particularly, the minority community," Brown said.

The commissioners approve school funding and are already stretched thin.

"I'm not sure at this point that this is the time to do that," Brown said.

Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley backs the new board members despite what legal costs may come down the pipeline.

"My impression is that the new school board is doing exactly what they were elected to do," Gurley said.

The new school board says they will implement the new policy over the next few years - limiting the impact on children and parents.

But the NAACP doesn't want the move at all and says they will keep fighting in the weeks and months to come.

Meanwhile, even a former board member is offering some criticism.

Lori Millberg calls the board's recent decisions not only damaging to diversity, but also fiscally irresponsible.

"You're never going to get along if you exclude half of the board from the real discussion," Millberg said.

Along with civility, Millberg says something else is missing from the Wake County School Board.

"So far they're not making cost effective decisions," Millberg said.

She says an example is a promise to end mandatory year-round classes at three schools.

"Last night they voted to make Leesville Elementary - where 68 percent of parents want year-round, traditional," Millberg said. "That's a money decision; I mean to have to build another school to hold those thousand students we're talking $30 - $40 million."

Millberg cites the board's recent move to change the site for what will become Rolesville High - a change she says will add $15 million to the cost.

Millberg is also upset about the busing policy.

"They're going to separate the kids and then not provide the resources," Millberg said. "They're supported by the Taxpayer Association."

Russell Capps is the president of that organization.

"I think the members of the school board are much more qualified than the opposition gives them credit for being," Capps said.

Capps says he believes the new board is well informed about everything including the busing issue.

"The record shows that it has not worked if you look at the graduation rates," he said. "It's a tremendous portion of the budget and if these routes could be cut shorter and a lot of the busing eliminated it certainly would save a lot of money and that could go toward the classroom."

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