Monday, March 13, 2017

OPINION: Protecting our public schools in Wake County | Columns |

OPINION: Protecting our public schools in Wake County | Columns |

OPINION: Protecting our public schools in Wake County

If you’ve been following politics recently, I’m sure the controversy surrounding our new U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, isn’t at all new. As I’ve thought about DeVos’ record as a Michigan lobbyist for charter schools and our own public school issues here in Wake County, I’ve reached one conclusion: We cannot turn our back on Wake County’s Public School System, no matter how much work it needs. Now I know that during this time of political turmoil and divisiveness, it can be easy for liberals like myself to assume the worst before anything has even happened. At times, the fear and derision can seem premeditated and hyperbolic. This is not one of those times. Right now, more than ever, NC State students and North Carolinians, should be thinking about how to preserve our public schools, because one look at DeVos’ record makes it clear that she won’t.
According to an article published in The Detroit Free Press, DeVos and her husband have contributed millions of dollars to propping up the charter school industry in Michigan and insulating it from oversight, even as charter schools in the state fail to yield successful results. Charter schools can create their own rules and educational guidelines. This can mean success or failure for students. In Michigan, charter schools can legally operate as for-profit businesses, giving those who run it all the incentive they need to stay open, despite poor test scores and results. This lack of oversight, paired with the funneling of funds meant for public schools, into charter schools, has led to abysmal results.
Politico reports that Michigan’s lack of charter school regulation has, “… led to marginal and, in some cases, terrible schools in the state’s poorest communities.” So much of the funding that was meant for cities like Detroit’s already struggling public schools, with the help of DeVos, has been funneled into failed charter schools. These schools do not have appropriate educational standards, which has led to low test scores and low achievement. The charter schools in the state are ill-advised and ill-maintained. Their goal of giving parents “school choice” has led to the stifling of funding for public schools and an even poorer status quo for the state’s low-income and minority students. Test scores and achievement fall at the bottom of national averages. 
This is DeVos’ legacy. She will now try to implement this on schools nationwide with school vouchers that will funnel public school money into charter schools, North Carolina included.
This is a sobering look at what our reality could soon be. North Carolina’s public schools, specifically Wake County Public Schools, could be drained adequate of funding and left to fail. Charter schools can be great, but they cannot and will not guarantee success for every student. It is worth noting that Wake County Public School System, or WCPSS, is far from perfect.
From 2000 until 2010, students enrolled in WCPSS were sent to schools based on an effort to integrate low-income and minority students into schools with middle-income students and high test scores. The theory was that if there were a mix of low-income students in a school with middle-income students, that test scores would increase and schools would diversify. Students from low-income neighborhoods were bussed to more affluent schools and vice-versa. For years, the process received mixed reactions, some parents were thrilled and others were angry. Regardless, the theory seemed to work as test scores did increase at low-income schools.
This all changed in 2010 when the newly elected conservative school board voted to overturn the 2000 measure and reinstated neighborhood schools. Since then, students have gone to schools closer to the neighborhood in which they live. This has led to OPINION: Protecting our public schools in Wake County | Columns |

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