Student reassignment is fast becoming one of the most hotly debated issues in North Carolina. Across the state, parental frustration is mounting as local officials search for ways to accommodate soaring student enrollments or diversify student populations. While the ultimate responsibility of assigning students rests with the local school board, the entire county often weighs in on this emotionally-charged subject.
Guilford, Pitt, and Wake Counties have all recently grappled with student reassignment. In Guilford County, empowered citizens got involved; even so, many parents were caught off guard when they learned where their children would be attending school. In Pitt County, controversial student assignment proposals led to opposition from the Greenville Parents Association, even raising the specter of judicial intervention.
When it comes to size and scope, Wake County is hard to beat. On Tuesday, Wake’s School Board voted on a plan to reassign the largest number of students in the county’s history, affecting more than 9,000 students. Wake’s plan is bound to leave parents confused; fortunately, Assignment By Choice, an organization founded by frustrated Wake County parents, is a great guide through the student reassignment maze.
Wake’s most recent reassignment is understandable since the county is opening seven new schools and has had to accommodate burgeoning student enrollments. But student growth is not always the reason for reassignment plans. Often, students are reassigned because the county is bent on achieving socioeconomic “diversity.” Currently, a majority of Wake County School Board members embraces a diversity philosophy prohibiting a significant concentration of poor students from attending any one school. The school board assigns students based on a complicated and arduous formula, dividing the county into hundreds of geographic “nodes.”
Such a delicate balance of rich/poor or white/minority students may work for a time, but what happens when demographics invariably shift? Achieving socioeconomic diversity is predicated on maintaining continuity in school populations. Real life makes this impossible. Are we really willing to sacrifice our children’s educational stability on the altar of socioeconomic diversity?
For most parents, the answer is “no,” meaning it is only a matter of time before the public demands educational freedom for everyone. School choice already exists for parents who are able to relocate or pay private school tuition. How many more reassignment wars must be fought before we focus our educational energies on achievement – not assignment? One fact remains: a statewide movement that empowers all parents with school choice will bring a hasty end to the reassignment wars.