North Carolina School Board to Vote on Removing Busing Policy

Filed under: In The News

To bus or not to bus is the question North Carolina's largest school district faces, as the school board considers whether to continue busing children to achieve economically diverse classrooms, or to move the district's 140,000 students into schools closer to their homes.

In a final redistricting vote expected to take place in mid-March, the Wake County school board could vote to halt the county's "busing for socioeconomic diversity" and instead send children to schools within their communities. Wake County encompasses the region of Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh, the state capitol, in an area also known as the Research Triangle.

The county's school board will conduct two votes in March on the board's resolution to change its busing policy, the News & Observer reports. The board then needs to spend the next nine to 15 months focusing on ironing out details for these new community-based zones, otherwise the changes "may not be implemented," the newspaper reports.

Ten years ago, in response to courts rejecting race as a basis for busing, Wake County created an innovative, yet "unusual desegregation policy," according to The New York Times. The policy used income to determine busing and, in some cases, children from wealthy subdivisions are bused 17 miles and up to an hour away from their homes.

Last fall, detractors voted out school board members who supported the policy, making way for those who vowed to "end Wake's nationally recognized income-based busing," the Times reports.

Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, tells the Times that "diversified schools typically have higher graduation rates, more college acceptances and fewer students in the criminal justice system."

Other research supports that an economically diverse classroom can improve the scores of poor students "more effectively than increased per-pupil spending, more experienced teachers or lower student-teacher ratios," the Times reports.

However, proponents of the community-based schooling claim the county's graduation rate has slipped in the last five years, while school suspensions and a "performance gap between poor and wealthy students" has increased, according to the Times.

The school board actions have galvanized community members, including those against the board's resolution.

"With reckless disregard for the facts, their resolution calls for 'suggestions' only in support of their policies -- which will lead to massive reassignment for thousands of students, less school choice overall, and ultimately the resegregation of our schools," Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, write in a news release.

Related: How Clean Is the Air On Your Child's School Bus?

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