Wake County voters issued a strong statement Tuesday against the school system's student diversity policy, voting in three candidates who have vowed to dismantle the program.
Results in the fourth race were close enough for a possible run-off election, but even in that race, the supporter of the current policy finished in third place, behind two candidates who want to end the Wake County Schools' policy of busing students to balance the number of low-income and upper-income students in schools.
It means opponents of the diversity policy likely will have a 5-4 edge after the new board is seated in early December, with the four new members joining one incumbent who also opposes the policy but was not up for re-election this year.
The results certainly will be closely watched in Mecklenburg County, where some community leaders had pointed to Wake County's policy as a good way of improving student performance among lower-income students.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James, a proponent of neighborhood schools and a frequent critic of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, said Wake's policy is flawed.
“Fixing the achievement gap is the only real way to create educational equality,” James said in a statement Wednesday. “All children can learn if given the opportunity. Busing never raised a single test score or improved the life of one child.
“It was and is a failed 50-year-old social engineering experiment, designed to protect bureaucrats and special interests. The problem always has been family stability (or lack thereof).”
Candidates who supported the current diversity policy campaigned that it had given Wake County national prominence for ensuring that each school had a relatively equal mix of students from different economic levels. Opponents argued that the policy hurt lower-income students because it “hid” them among better-achieving peers in higher-income levels and never really dealt with the lower-income students' real needs.
Only 11.4 percent of registered voters cast ballots Tuesday in the race for four school board district seats, but the message was obvious.
“What I think really came across to voters was that citizens want a choice, citizens want a voice, and citizens don't like irresponsible busing and irresponsible reassignment,” Debra Goldman, a retired firefighter who easily defeated opponent Lois Nixon in District 9, which covers western Wake County, told the Raleigh News & Observer.
Read more at CharlotteObserver.com