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School Board in Turmoil

In 1976, after years of unpopular and failed proposals, North Carolina’s General Assembly merged Raleigh City schools with Wake County’s sprawling suburban school system in an effort to mitigate “white flight” and comply with court-mandated desegration. The district’s integration efforts eventually established a magnet program regarded a as a model for promoting balanced diversity in the classroom.

Today the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) is North Carolina’s largest public school district and the 17th largest in the United States with 143,289 students attending 163 schools during the 2010-11 academic year.

In 2009, an off-year election held in the county’s suburban outlying districts ushered in a Tea Party-backed school board majority that campaigned to end socioeconomic diversity based school enrollment. Promising their constituents neighborhood schools, the new conservative majority voted in 2010 to disregard the socioeconomic factors to determine school assignments.

“When you want to dismantle that, based on political ideology, not based on educational research, there’s something real wrong about that and we have to challenge it,” said North Carolina NAACP President William Barber.

Update – : January 13, 2011 U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, voiced his concerns for WCPSS in an editorial for The Washington Post.

Update –  January 19, 2011: Wake County School Board member John Tedesco and the school system’s diversity controversy was the featured subject during The Colbert Report’s segment “The Wørd: Disintegration.”

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