Senate Bill 8, the Republican legislation to lift the cap on the number of charter schools and see where the dust settles, won House approval this afternoon by a 69-48 vote. A second House vote is required to pass it, and that vote is scheduled for Monday night. Then assuming the Senate concurs in the House amendments, as it will, it will be on to Gov. Bev Perdue ... and today House Minority Leader Joe Hackney predicted that Perdue will veto the legislation.
Hackney, at a press conference with fellow Democrats, ripped the bill and said Perdue wouldn't sign it. Asked if he knew that for sure, he dialed back just a bit, saying there's "a high likelihood" that she won't, and that her veto will force negotiations toward a better bill. NB: The Republican majority in the Senate of 31-19 is veto-proof (a 60 percent majority is need to override the Governor), but the 68-52 GOP minority in the House is not — it's four votes shy of a 60 percent majority. In the House, SB-8 got at least one Democratic vote, but it didn't get four — an indication that if Perdue does veto the bill, her veto would be sustained.
Originally, SB-8 simply eliminated the cap of 100 charter schools, allowing an unlimited number. But in the Senate, it metastasized into a bill that not only allowed an unlimited number of charters but gave them additional funding and set them up under a new state commission independent of the State Board of Education.
Critics (Democrats, especially African-Americans) howled that the bill would result in a resegregated school system, with a lot of charter schools in white neighborhoods and the traditional public schools left to educate an increasingly minority, increasingly poor student population. Over the long term, charter schools could destroy the whole idea of a public school system designed to serve all students equally regardless of race or income, the critics said.
House amendments followed and the bill, once a single paragraph, is now 23 pages long. The bill is improved slightly. All charter schools must have at least 50 students. (As passed by the Senate, one student was enough.) And the number of new charter schools per year is limited, if that's the right word, to 50. (So, 150 charter schools in year one, 200 in year two ...)
Still, House Democrats like Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, and the Legislative Black Caucus continue to think that SB-8 will resegregate the school system. The LBC issued a statement today — it's copied below.
Republicans, meanwhile, maintain that a lot of charter schools will simply mean more good choices for every student, including poor kids.
The history of the first 100 charters supports the resegregation idea. Most of the existing charters are either predominantly white or predominantly black and Hispanic, as we reported early in this debate. Charter schools don't have to provide transportation to students, so naturally the ones in upscale neighborhoods tend to have upscale kids, and vice versa for the ones in poor neighborhoods.
As amended in the House, SB-8 does require new charter schools to provide transportation to students [edited to add: who live within three miles of the school and ...] whose family income is 185% of the federal poverty rate or less. How likely it is that such kids will apply to (or even know about) a distant charter school in a predominantly white neighborhood is a big question mark, however.
House Democrats offered a series of proposals aimed, Glazier said, at encouraging charters to set up shop near low-income populations, not out in the 'burbs. The Republican leadership, specifically House Majority Leader Paul Stam and Sen. Richard Stevens, SB-8's chief sponsor, rejected most of them, Glazier said.
Stam and Stevens both represent Wake County districts in the Southwest — the Republican — part of Wake.
Martinez was one of the three NC DREAM Team members who conducted a 13-day hunger strike in Raleigh last summer during a campaign to convince Congress to pass the DREAM Act. (For background, see this story.)
Rico, according to a press release from the DREAM Team, is a Wake Tech student who hopes to study engineering at N.C. State — except he can't afford to pay the out-of-state tuition rates charged to young people in his circumstances.
Long story short, these are young people whose parents brought them to the United States, who've grown up in this country and graduated from the public schools here. This is their home. But to the federal government, they're illegal and subject to being deported to — well, to where?
Regardless of the risk, they are unwilling to live in the shadows, Martinez says in the press statement.
A DREAM Team spokesman said the group will hold a vigil in Raleigh Thursday, beginning at 6:30 p.m., on the plaza where the hunger strike took place — it's across the street and to the east from the General Assembly building.
Here's the press release in full:
ATLANTA—Two young undocumented North Carolina residents who participated in a sit-in today on the campus of Georgia State University have been arrested and taken to an area jail. Atlanta participates in the Secure Communities program, which makes the risk of detainment and deportation high.
“I’m doing this because our communities are living in fear,” said Jose Rico, one of two sit-in participants from North Carolina. “51,000 undocumented youth had their dreams torn apart when our senators voted against the DREAM Act. They are trying to criminalize our existence.”
Rico is a student at Wake Tech in Raleigh who plans to transfer to NC State University. After excelling in high school being accepted to numerous colleges, Rico could not afford to go to school because of the out-of-state tuition that undocumented students are required to pay. Rico plans to stay in North Carolina and become an engineer.
Georgia, like North Carolina, is considering banning undocumented students from attending public colleges and universities. Georgia has already banned attendance at its top-tier institutions. Two bills in the NC General Assembly, HB 11 and HB 343, would close the doors to immigrants on higher education. Both bills, along with others, have been introduced by Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow).
Viridiana Martinez, the other sit-in participant from North Carolina, has spoken to Cleveland personally.
“He doesn’t understand that he’s hurting people,” Martinez said. “These people are North Carolinians who love this state as much as he does.”
By participating in this sit-in, Martinez and Rico risk arrest and deportation. However, lobbying and political campaigns have yet to deliver federal reform.
“Rallying and protesting are no longer enough,” Martinez said. “Remaining in the shadows is no longer acceptable.”
That was one strange banner headline on the front page of the N&O today: "Data hint how far may tell how well bused students do." (I see they've changed the headline online.) The odd phraseology is perhaps due to the fact that the "data" discussed in the story under it, as the headline writer certainly recognized, is presented as meaning one thing about the Wake schools diversity policy when it plainly means something else entirely.
The headline writer could hardly have chosen the most suitable title: "What a crock of sh-t this story is." So instead, he or she reached for a pair of weasel words — "hint" and "may" — whose traditional meaning in newspaper journalism is as follows: "Suggest you ignore this story, but at a minimum, don't assume it's true."
Well. I'm glad I got that off my chest. Anyone else reminded that there are Three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics?
The Wake school board's leaders (John Tedesco et al) want us to think that the reason black students who ride farther score lower is the ride itself — that is, it's the distance from their homes that causes their lower scores. And the N&O reports that defenders of the "old" diversity policy (they never miss a chance to call it old) are "scrambling" to respond to this reasoning.
Defenders may be scrambling, but only because it's hard to respond to an argument that makes no sense at all.
The actual reason black students who ride farther score lower is that it is low-income black students who ride farthest in order to diversify suburban schools ... and diversify the schools in their own low-income neighborhoods by creating openings for magnet students. Ditto the low-scoring white students: They are the long-riding, low-income white students.
.And as defenders of the old diversity policy have always argued, there IS a correlation between incomes and achievement. Which is why the defenders of diversity think it's a bad idea to put all the low-income kids into a few "neighborhood schools" — which is what the Wake school board majority was setting out to do before cooler heads slowed them down.
If distance from home correlated with low achievement, kids who choose magnet schools and travel long distances to get to them would have the worst results. Of course, their results are excellent.
To repeat: Low-income black and white students score lower in general than their middle-class and up-scale black and white peers. And it is the former low-income group, not the latter well-off ones, who travel longer distances by bus to leave their low-income neighborhoods and attend schools in more affluent neighborhoods.
Would these low-income kids do better if they stayed at home? The "data" not only don't "hint" at the answer to that question, they give no indication of it whatsoever. Do these bused low-income kids do better, worse or about the same as their low-income counterparts who remain close to home in low-income neighbhorhood schools? The data in the N&O story tell us nothing to answer that question either. (But from my rough understanding of other data, the answer is they do about the same. And all, bused and not bused, would probably do worse if they were aggregated in a few low-income neighhorhood schools, but that's a supposition based on the results in virtually every other American city — We don't know what would happen in Wake County because, thank goodness, we haven't tried that kind of economic segregation here since the '70s.)
Strangly, the N&O's editorial writers understand the point I'm making. I know because they made it in an editorial that also ran today:
The heart of the board's rationale for its actions is that under the old system, black students bore the heaviest burden of long bus rides, and that sending kids from their mostly black neighborhoods to the distant, mostly white suburbs tended to drag them down academically. They offered data purporting to make their case.
But the data are clouded by the fact that black students whose families can afford to live in the suburbs themselves - and there are plenty - of course wouldn't have to ride as far to get to school. And such students tend to get better test scores. So the pattern here is familiar: Family income is a predictor of academic success.
The editorial writers also published a letter today from Matthew Brown of Raleigh (one of those defenders), who cut through the bullsh-t presented on the front page in two well-worded paragraphs:
As evidence that busing for diversity does not work, the Wake school board majority presented evidence that black students who are bused longer distances tend to score lower than black students who are bused shorter distances (news story, March 30). But as the school board is well aware, the diversity policy is based on income, not race. Low-income students are more likely to be bused longer distances to avoid concentrations of low-income students in schools. So of course low-income black students are more likely to be bused longer distances than higher-income black students!
Because of the correlation between income and test scores, we should certainly expect that the students bused longer distances will tend to score lower than those bused shorter distances. Of course the school board majority knows this, but they think that the public can be fooled by their fact-twisting. "If you torture the data sufficiently, it will say whatever you want it to."
Anyone who doubts that there's a "wall" between the reporters and editorial writers at the N&O, take note:
Clearly, if an editorial writer had read the front-page news story before it ran, it wouldn't have run. Or it would've run with the headline: "What a crock of sh-t this story is."