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End of ConsensusDiversity, Neighborhoods, and the Politics of Public School Assignments$
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Toby L. Parcel and Andrew J. Taylor

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781469622545

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469622545.001.0001

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A Focus of Conflict I

A Focus of Conflict I

Wake Schools’ General Student Assignment Policy

(p.33) 3 A Focus of Conflict I
End of Consensus

Toby L. Parcel

Andrew J. Taylor

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter focuses on the general assignment policy of the Wake school board. It emphasizes that disagreements about the conflicting cultural models of public education were a leading cause of the breakdown of Wake's consensus. Wake initially assigned students in order to balance schools by race, but as districts across the country came under political and legal pressure to end the practice, the school board utilized socioeconomic status. Supporters argued that the approach was fair, essential to the system's overall academic achievement, made the area attractive to newcomers, and involved the busing of only a small proportion of students for diversity reasons. Advocating the neighborhood model, opponents argued that diversity restricted choice, caused hardship by assigning children far from their homes, undermined collective academic performance, and constituted a form of social engineering. The chapter presents survey results demonstrating that, although inversely correlated according to media coverage, respondent preferences for diversity and neighborhood schools were not diametrically opposed. The findings suggest that neighborhood schools had a high degree of support among many citizens, but a subset was also very supportive of diversity. This chapter also investigates diversity preferences by race and shows that African American views on school assignment policies were very different from whites' views.

Keywords:   Wake County, student assignment policy, neighborhood schools, racial diversity, socioeconomic diversity

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