Are you ready? Wake schools superintendent Tony Tata will present his student assignment plan to the school board on Tuesday, with the board slated to vote on it at its October 18 meeting. That's a week after the October 11 elections. In between, the board has scheduled a public hearing — one — on the plan for 5 p.m. Thursday, October 13 at Broughton High School.
Tata holds a meeting with reporters most Friday mornings. Our friend Greg Flynn attended today's confab and he's posted the video. Greg also sent along a handout that Tata read from with "key points" he wants people to understand: StudentAssignHighlights2pdf.pdf
Elon Poll takers gave the folks three choices regarding same-sex marriage: I support gay marriage with full rights; I support civil unions but not full marriage rights; I oppose any legal recognition of same-sex unions.
The result was one-sided in favor of LGBT rights: Fully 33% of those surveyed back same-sex marriages, and another 29% support civil unions.
Add up those opposed to any recognition (34%) plus the "other" answers (2% and no responses (2%), and you have less than 4 in 10 who may want to add an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.
Sure enough, by 56% to 39%, the respondents said they oppose the amendment.
The poll can be seen here. It includes many other questions, including favorable/unfavorable on Gov. Bev Perdue. (The good news for her is that it's not that bad.)
it should be noted, though, that this was a survey of N.C. adults — those eligible to vote — not a survey of registered voters, frequent voters or likely voters.
And with the referendum scheduled to take place at the first 2012 primary election, probably in May, the likely electorate could skew strongly Republican. That's because contested primaries for president and governor are on tap for Republican voters, whereas Democrats will have neither — or so it appears right now.
Thus, this amendment could pass even though a strong majority of North Carolinians don't want it to pass.
The finale of last night's District 8 school board debate was stunning. Out of his New Jersey past, the incumbent School Board Chair Ron Margiotta suddenly declared that funding for the Wake school system is "woefully inadequate." His opponent, Susan Evans, had the last word, and she used her closing statement to say that if elected, she'll "put politics aside" and "champion a highly efficient, balanced school system."
When Evans finished, the room literally exploded with applause — the first of the night. The moderator, a no-nonsense type, had warned the audience not to react, not even to breathe, until the end. So it was hard to tell whether the spontaneous reaction was for Evans alone or for Evans and Margiotta. My take, watching from the front of the room, was that it was for Evans, whose concluding syllable was still on her lips when the crowd erupted.
Interesting. This was in Apex, which is assumed to be a Republican stronghold — a Margiotta stronghold. There were 150 people in the room, and of course they were not a random sample of the school board electorate. Still, it looked to me like at least 100 were Evans' supporters, whether from the outset or after they'd heard both candidates.
From the surprised reaction on Margiotta's face, I believe it looked that way to him too.
(By the way, if you want to watch the debate, it's now online courtesy of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, partners with WakeUP Wake County and the League of Women Voters of Wake County.)
But let's go back. Margiotta thinks school funding is woefully inadequate? Well, talk is cheap, and throughout the debate Margiotta took full advantage of its low price.
Programs for gifted students are inadequate, he said. We need more vocational education. We need more magnet-like programs at non-magnet schools. We need more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs — every school should have one. Every middle school has foreign language courses; soon, every elementary school will have them too, if Ron Margiotta has anything to say about it.
Magnet schools in Raleigh get the whipped cream, Margiotta said. (But he supports them :-)
Suburban schools get the broccoli — but it's time they got some whipped cream too.
That's what he said.
And then he said he's from New Jersey, where per-pupil spending in the schools is often 2X what it is here.
He said it, not me.
It was an amazing display for a Republican who never objected as his party cut state aid to schools in the General Assembly ... a Republican who, when asked to support a request to the county commissioners that they not cut school aid per pupil, voted no ... and remember, the county commissioners are his fellow Republicans.
School funding means taxes. Republicans oppose taxes. Margiotta is a Republican. And he is no exception, nor are his four running mates on the Republican slate for school board seats, nor are the four other Republicans elected to the school board in 2009. Ask them how they'll pay for something, and out comes the magic "wasted spending" pot they plan to draw on.
Margiotta bragged that the Republican-majority school board cut no teaching jobs this year despite — he said — cutbacks in state and federal aid. What he neglected to explain is that a one-time, $27 million federal Education Jobs grant — a form of stimulus funding that his fellow Republicans in Congress opposed — saved Wake from needing to cut teaching jobs. But it didn't save the teachers assistants who were fired, or the assistant principals who were fired, or the central staff, including secretaries, who were fired.
Superintendent Tony Tata has described next year's budget as looking like a $27 million cliff that Wake will fall off unless the county or the state — or Congress — comes to its senses about school funding. Good luck with that.
But say this for Margiotta: He resisted every invitation to pledge, or even hint, that he would support higher taxes. And he ducked when asked about a bond issue to build the new schools Wake desperately needs. If you vote for Margiotta, you're voting for someone who clearly sees the needs, but is just as clear that tax money won't be paying for them.
Tata's looking for foundation grants, Margiotta said.
He added: "We had better find some outside funding."
Because there won't be any inside funding on his watch.
"We are in desperate need of more resources," Susan Evans said, and while I don't think she said in so many words that she'll be for higher taxes — no candidate ever says that — she did say that, unlike Margiotta, she would've asked the county commissioners this year to keep per-pupil funding level and not cut it. Doing so would've required a small tax hike.
Evans added, "I would really like to work to change the culture of that," by which I believe she meant the culture that says great schools can be had on the cheap and new taxes are never needed if you use the magic word "waste."
Answering questions about Wake's student assignment policies, Evans repeatedly made the point that maintaining diversity in some form — she called it balance — saves the taxpayers money.
Western Wake has been plagued by student reassignments over the past decade, which Margiotta & his GOP mates never tire of blaming on diversity — or busin' (try to say it like George Wallace used to, hitting the "bu" hard).
Evans' response? We opened 51 new schools in a 10-year period and added close to 50,000 students, a whole lot of them in Apex, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina and the western part of Cary — in western Wake, that is. So of course students were reassigned. If they weren't, the new schools wouldn't have been full, the old schools wouldn't needed more portable classrooms — and it would've cost more money.
Yes, some students were assigned to schools to maintain diverse student populations — a mix of kids from richer and poorer families — in every school. Again, doing so kept all the schools full and in demand, unlike Charlotte, where they dropped diversity and soon needed to close inner-city schools because families had abandoned them.
Evans said the number-one priority for a new assignment plan should be stability — not reassigning kids once they've started in an elementary, a middle or a high school. Parents should have a choice, and proximity should be a factor, but so should "balance" — with the new "balance" factor being student achievement levels rather than socioeconomic status.
It doesn't cost more to do it with balance, she argued. it costs less than if you create more "high-needs" schools where kids are disadvantaged and their achievement levels are low.
The best example of this, Evans said, is the new Walnut Creek Elementary School in Southeast Raleigh, which opened this year with — thanks to the new no-diversity Republican school board — a nearly all-black student population. About 80 percent of the kids qualify for free or reduced lunches because of low family incomes.
Because Walnut Creek is considered a "high-needs" school, and because the Republican school board had said up and down they'd put extra money into high-needs schools and show the world that diversity isn't necessary, Walnut Creek was ticketed for an extra $1 million this year. It was supposed to have 800 students, with class sizes of 20 or less.
But that promise had evaporated in a month's time after Walnut Creek opened with 900 students — pushing class sizes up.
Tata is pledging to bring forward a student assignment plan for board consideration on October 4. It will include stability, proximity, and achievement (balance/diversity) in a parental-choice model, Tata says.
Evans said there should be balance. She added that stability, proximity and balance should be readily achieved, at least initially, in a parental-choice plan since more than 90 percent of parents who responded to Tata's "test drive" indicated they'll keep their kids in the school they're in now.
That is, schools with students assigned with an eye toward balance.
On balance, Margiotta was a firm no. The plan he will support, he said twice, will have proximity as its most important factor, along with stability and choice. Period. "I am a believer in neighborhood schools," he said.
Evans quoted Tata as saying that the Margiotta approach — a "pure" neighborhood-schools plan with proximity the main factor and no effort made to maintain balanced student bodies — will produce between 17 and 25 additional high-needs schools like Walnut Creek.
Such schools would need extra money — money taken from the suburban schools, presumably, and all those nifty programs Margiotta's promising to deliver — or else, if they don't get it, kids will be hurt, parents will abandon the "have-not" schools, and it'll be Charlotte all over again, Evans said.
Meaning, it'll be expensive.
Unlike talk, which is cheap.
To say it's been a rough week for Heather Losurdo, the Republican Party's candidate in the pivotal District 3 (North Raleigh) school board election, is like saying a drowning woman is a little wet.
First, Losurdo's penchant for crackpot commentary — don't call it humor, because it isn't funny — was exposed by a new political organization of the progressive stripe, Progress NC. "Heather Losurdo: The Queen of Extreme" is itself a bit over the top in blaming her for the extreme right-wing views of a website on which she's been advertising. I'll note that she's also been advertising on the Indy website.
That said, the Facebook exchange in which her husband, Craig Losurdo, cracked that the Eagle's been replaced as the symbol of America by the Skunk, "which is half-black, half-white and everything it does stinks" ... and Heather comes back with "LMAO" ... she was "laughing my ass off" at her husband's racist remark ... is a dirty little window into the mind of the Republican right-wing.
Unfortunately, there's more where that came from on the "Queen of Extreme" website put up by Progress NC Action. But read it yourself. Don't let me pre-judge it for you.
The second source of Losurdo's troubles is the revelation that she and Craig moved to Raleigh three years ago after Craig pleaded guilty to a crime arising from his eight-month stint as assistant manager at a company in upstate New York.
The facts of his guilty plea were known to journalists here — including me — for weeks, thanks to anonymous emails we received from someone purporting to be a "true conservative" who wanted Losurdo exposed. But perhaps that was a masquerade? The emails contained a link to a Department of Justice summary of the case and a second link to a 2007 magazine article about it.
I decided, after consulting with my editor, that Craig Losurdo's role in the case — his "crime" — was minor and was unrelated to Heather's qualifications for the school board. The latter conclusion, I will add, was based on my belief that she has no qualifications for the school board that such a revelation would sully.
I had no illusions, of course, that this crime story would remain secret for long. I simply didn't want to be the one spreading it.
In frustration, Mr. Anonymous posted the email's contents as a comment on the N&O's education blog. Even then, it sat unremarked until — wait for it — the head of the Wake County GOP Men's Club bitched in a newsletter that lefties were attacking Ms. Losurdo.
Steven Nelson, the GOP Men's chair, said (I'm copying this from the N&O blog post about it):
"One of the areas where one of our candidates has been targeted is Heather Losurdo and her husband. Of course, the left will not give the whole story, but it came out this week that her husband has been charged with a felony and is awaiting sentencing. Of course, they would love to leave it at that, as the truth will destroy their ability to use this smear. The truth, so you can tell others, is simple. Her husband worked for a company in the northeast that had been hiring illegals. When Craig learned of this practice and the company's decision not to change this practice, he resigned from the company. After he left the company, the feds came after him and arrested him. However, he turned states evidence and due to his assistance, they were able to prosecute the true perpetrators of this crime. He plead guilty to a misdemeanor. He is awaiting sentencing per the plea arrangement. If he keeps his nose clean for another year, his record will be expunged."
The left? With friends like these —
As it happens, before I decided not to be the one "breaking" the news about Craig Losurdo's scrape with the immigration authorities, I talked to Heather and Craig Losurdo about it following the District 3 candidates debate last week. Nelson's account is the same as what they told me. Craig took a job in a company plant, found that the company routinely hired undocumented immigrants, and got out as soon as he could — considering he was sole breadwinner for a family of four and did not want to quit before finding another job.
More than a year after he left, ICE looked him up and gave a choice. Cooperate with us, and we'll let you plead to a Class B misdemeanor. Or don't cooperate, and take your chances on a felony trial and the $300,000 it'll cost you in legal fees even if you get off. He took the plea and has been a cooperating witness against company officials since.
A long time ago, I worked for a daily newspaper in New Jersey. I absolutely would've written the Craig Losurdo story then, and my paper would've published it. "The public has a right to know," we said of such things.
Today, I still think the public has a right to know and decide for themselves, within the bounds of an ever-expanding universe of available information and the need for journalists to choose what matters and what doesn't on a day-to-day basis.
I don't say that Craig Losurdo's story doesn't matter. That's for readers to decide. I simply say, and my editor said, it wasn't a story the Indy needed to spend our time on.
To me, the most salient fact in the story as far as Losurdo's candidacy is concerned is that she's lived in Raleigh just three years. During that time, her only claim to a place on the school board — if you can call it that — is her rise to leadership in the Northern Wake Republican Club. If you think more Republican politicos are needed on the school board, regardless that they know little or nothing about the school system or its needs, she's your candidate.
It was clear enough to me what Losurdo stands for when she plugged her candidacy at a Tea Party rally on April 15, the hated "Tax Day" to people who think taxes are evil except when used to pay them something.
Tea Party Republicans think the country's in decline (so do I) and they blame it on liberal policies (I blame it on global capitalism and the politicians it buys). Anything that tries to lift up the poor or be fair to immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans or other disadvantaged people is considered money right out of the pockets of more "deserving" folks. (I think if the poor did better, we'd all do better.)
Anyway, this Tea Party view that when times are hard, the better-off should grab all they can and let the poor fend for themselves strikes me as exactly what we don't need on the board of the Wake public school system. (Or a Wake Christian school either, for that matter.)
Why confuse what's important to know about Heather Losurdo with a gratuitous story about her husband's bad luck at a job? By the way, Craig Losurdo is now in the tile business in Raleigh—custom tile installations. He said it's going well.
The reason why is that Honolulu came in 3rd on BusinessWeek.com's list of Best Cities in the U.S.
Whereas Raleigh came in — exactly! — No. 1, baby.
Curious Hawaiians are sure to be scoping out Raleigh soon to see what we're got (Deep South? Slim's?) that they don't. Get your list ready.
The Senate vote was 30-16, with 30 needed for passage. A second and final vote was taken immediately. The Governor can't veto a constitutional amendment, but the voters can — SB 514 sets the referendum for the first primary election of 2012, which is scheduled for May.
Click here for the vote: 30 Republicans out of 31 voted yes (Hartsell, an opponent, was absent). Zero Democrats voted yes.
There's a chance the primary could be postponed because of redistricting.
But whenever it's held, expect a no-holds-barred attack on gays by amendment supporters. This is not going to be a proud time for North Carolinians.
On the other hand, if North Carolina turns this thing down, we'll be the first state to do so — after 30 others passed it. Our image as a tolerant, even progressive place in on the line.
According to the N&O (I watched the vote online and couldn't see the board), all 30 yes votes were Republicans.
Going into the day, there was some hope that with one Republican (Fletcher Harsell of Cabarrus County) out and claiming illness — he didn't support the amendment, according to its opponents — and at least two other Republicans on the fence, the thing wouldn't pass. The Republican majority in the Senate is 31-19.
One of the fence-sitters was said to be our own Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake. I got this message last night from Steve Noble at Called2Action, a Christian-right advocacy group:
Senator Richard Stevens, District 17 (southern Wake County - Apex, Holly Springs, Garner, Fuquay-Varina) is having a hard time supporting the passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment.
If he doesn't't vote YES - he is voting NO to YOUR right to vote on this critical issue!
Please call Senator Steven's office in the morning at (919)733-5653 and urge him to vote YES on the Marriage Protection Amendment!
I just called Stevens' office myself. No one answered; left a message on the VM.
Paraphrasing the quote from a former UNC law school dean, Henry Brandis — circa the civil rights era — that Sen. Bob Atwater, D-Chatham, offered near the end of the debate::
"The hardest task isn't hearing that others whose opinions you respect disagree with you. It's living with the knowledge that when a difficult decision needed to be made, you lacked the fortitude to do what you knew in your heart was right.
"Long personal experience convinces me that it's far more likely that a man will fail his conscience than that his conscience will fail him."
And this just in from Steve Noble at C2A:
Praise God for this incredible victory! After 8 long years of battle the Marriage Protection Amendment will finally be coming out to the people of North Carolina for a vote next May.
Thank you for your prayers and calls, especially to Senator Stevens who voted YES! There are so many people who have been in this battle for years and we thank God for all of them...but the Glory belongs to Him and Him alone!
The fight will only intendify between now and next May so make sure YOU are registered to vote and ALL of your friends are as well. This will not be a "slam dunk" so we all need to be ready to do our part to make sure this passes next May.
[Update, 8:30 am, 9/13: I heard from several good sources late last night that the outcome in the Senate today is uncertain. Three or four Republicans, including Sens. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, and Richard Stevens, R-Wake, were said to be unwilling to vote for the new SB 514. Whether any Democrats would vote for it wasn't known. With a 31-19 majority, the Republicans can't afford to lose many and still get the three-fifths vote — 30 votes out of 50 — needed to put the issue on the ballot. A late-night plea went out from conservative Christian groups like Called2Action urging followers to contact Stevens, in particular, and get him on board. The Senate is slated to start today's session at 12 noon. That's also when a rally on the pro-gay rights side begins on Halifax Mall, the area behind the Legislative Office Building.]
The original post from 9/12:
Legislatures are never pretty, and process goes out the window with regularity whenever a majority of the members are willing to chuck it.
Even so, I've never seen anything like what the state House of Representatives did today, which is to introduce a constitutional amendment after lunch and pass it before dinner. Debate on the bill — which began the day as Senate Bill 514, something to do with Nutrient Sensitive Waters, and at mid-day became Senate Bill 514, an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment — is continuing in the House as I write this, at 5 p.m. But the outcome is a foregone conclusion: The House will pass it with at least four Democrats joining the 68 Republicans to provide the needed three-fifths majority. (And, as I finish, it does, by a vote of 76-42. And quickly passes it a second time, as required, something that usually is done the following day. So the bill moves to the Senate.)
The same small group of Democrats who voted for the Republican budget in the House this summer are apparently ready to vote for this too, having "cut a deal" that the referendum — the public vote on the amendment — will take place during the first primary election of 2012 rather than at the November general election.
So much for the big Republican argument of last week that the referendum should be held in November to assure that the greatest number of voters have a say on it.
Now, the vote will be in a primary — currently, it's scheduled for May — to allay the fears of conservative Democrats that a big anti-gay vote in their districts in November will sweep them from office too.
Recall, though, that there will very likely be a hotly contested Republican primary for president next May in North Carolina, and a contested Republican primary for governor, and for lieutenant governor ... and there will be no contested Democratic primaries at all. At least, no statewide Democratic primaries.
In other words, a huge Republican turnout in assured in May, and a very light Democratic turnout is assured unless the pro-gay rights side can produce one.
This is fair? To pass a constitutional amendment when the electorate is skewed so badly in favor or one party and against the other?
Let me be fair and note that, while the specific language of the anti-gay amendment today was new, the basic idea of it — discriminate against gays in matters of marriage and civil unions — isn't new and has been the subject of bills in the General Assembly since 2004 and possibly earlier.
A longstanding Republican complaint when their party was in the minority was that the Democratic leadership wouldn't even give these bills a public hearing.
So this year, with the Republicans in the leadership, how many public hearings did they provide?
The answer is zero.
As usual, House Majority Leader Paul Stam's answer to complaints that the public was shut out of the process was, "They did it too."
They (the Democrats) violated basic fairness when they were in charge, so it's OK for us to violate basic fairness too.
This is an argument?
Not only were there no public hearings ever on this constitutional amendment to discriminate against LGBT citizens prior to today, but when the new version of SB 514 appeared today, it was during a meeting of the House Rules Committee, which entertained no public comment on it whatsoever because, as Committee Co-Chair Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said, "time doesn't permit it."
Not even the usual one or two brief comments from whoever happens to be in the committee room that is so commonly used in the General Assembly as a faux form of public participation — you know, before the majority does whatever it wants to do?
Nope. Because time was of the essence if the House was to finish action on a constitutional amendment — a change to the state's enduring document of government, that is — the same day it was introduced.
As I left the General Assembly, the Senate was due to come back into session at 5, and it wasn't clear that the Senate, too, wouldn't vote on the bill this evening. The only thing stopping it from acting too, I gather, was the absence of two Republicans today. The GOP majority is 31-19, so with no Democrats willing to join them, they need all or all but one of their own members to vote yes.
I gather that at least 30 Republican senators are willing to vote yes, but they didn't have them in the building today, so unless their missing member(s) show up this evening, final passage won't occur before tomorrow.
Here's something I learned last night at the District 6 school board election debate. Superintendent Tony Tata's been talking up the idea of single-sex academies in Raleigh, specifically an all-male academy at the Longview School next door to Enloe HS and an all-female academy in the former Raleigh Charter HS in Pilot Mill. (Raleigh Charter moved to a new location this year. The tiny Longview School, an alternative school program, could move out and be merged with Mary Phillips HS, Tata suggests.)
The two academies, Tata says, would be grades 6-12 and could open as soon as 2012-13. His goal is that, within a few years, the two would serve a combined 800-1,000 students.
Good models for this, he told the school board Tuesday, are the pair of Early College High Schools (grades 9-12) in Guilford County, one all-male, one all-female. Each has a graduation rate of 95 percent or better.
So far, so good.
What Tata somehow failed to mention about the Guilford schools, and what went unreported in the press from the school board meeting, is that the two schools are a good deal smaller than what he has in mind and both are overwhelming black. One, apparently, has zero white students.
The all-male school in Guilford, located at historically black N.C. A&T University, had 96 students in 2009-10, according to this "state report card" on the Guilford Public Schools website. None were white. A handful were multi-racial.
The female school, at historically black Bennett College, had 103 students. Its 2009-10 state report card indicates that a handful of its students were either white or multi-racial, but the overwhelming majority were black.
I came home and looked up the data after hearing an exchange during the debate between District 6 candidates Donna Williams and Christine Kushner about Tata's single-sex academies idea. Williams said she likes the idea, and she's heard that single-sex schools can be particularly effective with at-risk kids. Kushner, too, said such academies can be a good idea. But — Kushner said — one of the academies in Guilford is all-black, and that gives her more than a little pause.
I don't want any "racially identifiable" schools in Wake, Kushner said.
Racially identifiable as in all-black or, for that matter, all-white or all-anything.
Now, I'm not suggesting Tata's goal is a pair of all-black schools. But, his description of what he does want is very likely, it seems to me, to result in one or both student bodies being predominantly African-American unless the superintendent and the school board are committed to avoiding that outcome.
Tata describes the academies he wants as having "highly structured" programs focused on building "leadership and character." I get an image of his days in the Army and the U.S. military's very successful programs for minority enlistees. The campuses he has in mind are either in Southeast Raleigh (in the case of the Longview school) or on the edge of it (Raleigh Charter). Southeast Raleigh is Raleigh's historically African-American community.
When Tata spoke to the school board — I wasn't there, but there's a summary of his presentation on the N&O's website — he talked about partnering with nearby colleges, perhaps including historically black St. Augustine's College, which is close to both Longview and Raleigh Charter, and Peace College, historically Presbyterian and white, which is next next door to Raleigh Charter.
Enloe, a magnet HS with a base population that is predominantly African-American, just got a JROTC program started. It would be moved to the Longview academy, Tata said.
Close your eyes, and you can imagine an all-male academy at Longview with a military bent ("highly structured"), an emphasis on discipline ("character") and a student body that is coming almost exclusively from Southeast Raleigh. Sure, white kids from other neighborhoods might be drawn to it. But will they still be drawn when the school turns out to be predominantly non-white?
On the other hand, the all-female academy could be anything. Leadership and character? "Bring It On."
Still, the context of Tata's proposal indicates that it's designed to serve students from Southeast Raleigh who live near a magnet school but —because half the magnet populations come from outside Southeast Raleigh — have only a 50-50 chance of going there. Historically, about half the students in Southeast Raleigh have been bused to schools that are outside their neighborhoods.
Tata's Student Assignment Plan promises to preserve the magnet schools (Enloe is one), but the big, unsettled question about his plan is, where will the other Southeast Raleigh students be assigned? In a choice plan, they'll assign themselves, and Tata's "test drive" indicates that most will choose based on proximity to home unless school officials actively encourage other choices.
Tata's talked about encouraging kids from low-income neighborhoods to choose from of a designated set of "high-performing" schools elsewhere in Raleigh or in the suburbs. He even suggested at one point that, especially in cases where the kids' parents are disengaged and don't make a choice — or they make a poor choice given their childrens' needs — school officials might intervene and make the choice for them.
School Board Chair Ron Margiotta, on the other hand, thinks kids from the 'hood should be in "neighborhood schools" the same as the kids in the 'burbs.
That's where the idea of the new academies comes in.
Having two new schools in or on the edge of Southeast Raleigh, with room for 1,000 students, offers a possible answer to the question of where Southeast Raleigh kids will go — especially if the school board doesn't care whether those schools are racially integrated or segregated.
Whether it's a good answer is yet another question. Around the country, there are a few successful all-black schools, but not many — and fewer still where the students are low-income. Conversely, Tata said the research shows that single-sex academies lift student achievement in all subject areas.
Take a look at the Guilford schools. The girls school is doing great. The boys? Average for the district — but that means above-average for other black males in the district.
But these are choice schools — very small — and the students who attend them are presumably not a random sample of African-American students. Rather, they're students with engaged parents who've decided not to put their kids into Guilford's other, much-much-larger high schools.
For 35 years, Wake County has avoided having all-black schools. Under the new school board, Walnut Creek Elementary School opened recently with a predominantly black student body, but it's located on the outer rim of Southeast Raleigh in an area of middle-class black subdivisions.
How would a school drawing a predominantly black, predominantly low-income student population do?
Here's another thing I learned last night. Tata's Student Assignment Plan — the Blue "Choice" Option — which Tata says is "very close to where we need it to be ... and getting a vote" is not going to get a school board vote prior to the October 11 elections.
How do I know that?
Because Donna Williams, a Republican with — shall we say — close ties to the Republican majority on the school board, said so.
Heading into Tuesday's school board meeting, it was thought — but obvioiusly it shouldn't have been — that the board would give Tata's plan some kind of thumbs-up or thumbs-down that day. (That's literally the way the Republicans do it — Board Chair Ron Margiotta asks how the members are feeling and sticks out his thumb.)
On Tuesday, though, the board listened as Tata once again described in a very general way how his plan is gonna be great. Then they kicked the can down the road to the Oct. 4 meeting — a week before Election Day.
Will there be a vote on Oct. 4?
Conceptually, Tata's "Blue" plan rolls right down the middle between the school board majority's desire for "neighborhood schools" and the goal many others have for neighborhood schools with diverse student populations — that is, they would NOT be pure neighborhood schools.
But that middle ground is, thus far, in concept only.
Whether Blue will result in reasonably diverse schools or not depends entirely on how it's executed. The devil, in other words, is in the details. And the details are far from set — or clear.
Margiotta has made clear his preference for a pure neighborhood-schools plan, with diversity cast aside as a goal. But he's running for re-election Oct. 11, making for an awkward situation if Tata insists on diversity as a real outcome of his Blue plan and Margiotta feels constrained to vote no. You know Margiotta doesn't wan to break with Tata — the Republicans' choice to be superintendent — on the eve of the election.
By the same token, if Tata is forced to vague up the diversity element in Blue to the point that it won't produce reasonably diverse schools, Margiotta & Co. probably don't want that outcome to be apparent prior to the elections either.
Anyway, Williams said she's "been told" that the Student Assignment Plan won't be put to a vote until after the elections, and if she's elected, she'll insist that her views on it be taken into account. Williams, if elected, wouldn't take office until December. Figure at least a month for her to get up to speed on the assignment issue, and we'd be into January before this hash is settled under her scenario.
The debate itself was energetic, if predictable. District 6 looks like a race between Kushner, who's endorsed by the NCAE and the Wake Democrats, and Williams, who's endorsed by the Wake Republicans. There are two other Democratic candidates, Mary Ann Weathers and George Morgan, but neither seems to have much support or an organized campaign.
Is the Wake school board majority — the Republican majority — on the right track or the wrong one? Williams says right track, Kushner says wrong. Kushner says the board majority is political and divisive. Williams says there's too much anger on both sides, majority and minority. (Actually, if you'll allow me an editorial note, there's lots of anger at the majority from people who come to the school board meetings. But the board minority has been almost saintly, month after month, in their willingness to disagree but remain polite.)
One other thing I learned — or confirmed — last night. Williams husband, Tom Williams, is a partner in Acadia NorthStar, an accounting business with a specialty in charter schools management with some 67 charter school clients in North Carolina already.
I encountered Acadia NorthStar a few weeks ago when I attended the N.C. Charter Schools Alliance conference in downtown Raleigh — the company was a headline sponsor of the conference. With the cap of 100 charter schools taken off this year by the Republican-led General Assembly, being in the charter school management business in North Carolina is about to be a growth sector.
Kushner, at one point in the debate, said her one of her opponents (unnamed, but obviously Williams) was getting support in the race from proponents of charter schools and private schools — the likes of Art Pope and Bob Luddy, in short. That she is. And yes, she told me, her husband is the Acadia NorthStar Tom Williams.
"I heard the shot," Donna Williams said of Kushner's comment when I talked to her after. "I'll say this, I am in favor of school choice, and I am in favor of competition."
During the debate, Williams acknowledged that she's in the school board race as a consequence of her very active role in GOP politics over the past three years. But she said if elected she'll be independent-minded and not bring a political agenda to the table.
Sunday will mark 10 years since the deadly events of 9-11, Sept. 11, 2001. How many days in American history have had a greater impact on our sense of what America is, or should be, than 9-11? A few, perhaps. But not many. Does the United States matter, and if so, why? Are we confident? Afraid? Whatever your answers, there's no doubt that the last decade was a time of decline for the country and for the world. 9-11 is seared in our minds, as it must be. Ten years later, we bring those memories forward and look to the future.
Commemorative events are scheduled across the Triangle to help us find solace in tragedy. Here are some of them:
** In Raleigh, NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson will lead a 9-11 Memorial Service, beginning at 2 p.m. at the Bell Tower on Hillsborough Street at the northeast corner of the old campus.
** Earlier, and also in Raleigh, Mayor Charles Meeker will join Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy for a Peace and Solidarity event, including a walk to downtown Raleigh from the Long Acres neighborhood. Start time is 8:30 a.m. The address is 515 Parnell Drive, the location of a house built by co-sponsor Habitat for Humanity of Wake County.
** In Durham, Duke University invites the community to a commemoration concert beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday in Duke Chapel. Rodney Wynkoop will conduct the Duke Chapel Choir, the Duke Chorale, the Choral Society of Durham, and the Orchestra Pro Cantores in a performance of Mozart's Requiem. The music is symbolic of mourning and consolation.
** In Chapel Hill, the Fire Department, Police Department and the Chapel Hill Firefighters Association will host a commemoration ceremony, including a ringing of bells, from 9:45-10:30 a.m. at “The Fire Place”, 301 Meadowmont Village.
Also on Sunday, panels at UNC-CH and NCSU will consider the impact of 9-11 on our politics, culture and sense of national security. The taalks and panel discussions — free and open to the public — are the work of the Triangle Institute of Security Studies and the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.
** At the UNC FedEx Global Education Center, Arif Alikhan, former assistant secretary for policy development in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will speak beginning at 5 p.m. A panel discussion will follow, including UNC and Duke experts and a representative from the Islamic Association of Raleigh.
** At NCSU, at 2 p.m. in the Brown Room (4114) of NC State’s Talley Student Center, faculty from UNC, NC State and Duke will participate in another panel discussion, “How Did 9/11 Impact the National Security Establishment?” The center is at 2610 Cates Ave; parking is available nearby in the Reynolds Coliseum deck.
Details of the UNC and NCSU events can be found here.
For other events at Duke, visit http://today.duke.edu/2011/08/911roundup.
The NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence came out against the anti-LGBT marriage amendment today, warning that a similar constitutional change in Ohio wrecked havoc with its laws protecting people — married or unmarried — in domestic violence cases. In Ohio, the DV law protected unmarried folks who lived together "as if married," but of course, once the state constitution said that the only "union" that state law could recognize as valid was a marriage between a man and a woman, that part of the DV law was ruled unconstitutional.
The coalition's statement is copied below.
Meanwhile, there was the story in The New York Times — follow the link in this post: Man is killed in Mississippi in a brutal crime; his family is suing the killers for damages; but the victim's gay partner of many years cannot sue, because under the law in Mississippi they couldn't be married and — well, you know.
NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence Announces Opposition to
Gay Marriage Constitutional Amendment
Amendment Would Put in Limbo Application of State’s Domestic Violence Laws
The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence today announced its opposition to the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment the General Assembly is planning to consider next week.
The coalition is particularly concerned that SB 106, the legislation expected to be considered, could block the application of domestic violence laws in situations where the victim — regardless of sexual orientation - is not married.
“Getting justice for victims of domestic violence — married or not - is already extremely difficult. Enacting this amendment risks creating an insurmountable hurdle for unmarried victims, regardless of sexual orientation,” said Beth Froehling, NCCADV’s Co-Executive Director. “We’ve seen this happen in Ohio, where their marriage amendment has been used as a defense against application of domestic violence laws as applied to some unmarried domestic violence victims.”
At a minimum, enactment of an amendment in North Carolina would create significant legal uncertainty about the constitutionality of current domestic violence laws. This will put at risk domestic violence legal protections to those already vulnerable and waste state resources litigating the application of these laws.
“This amendment is playing with fire in terms of our domestic violence protections,” said Froehling. “The consequences in terms of domestic violence protections may be unintended but they are not unknown as the Ohio experience shows. We urge the General Assembly not to consider this amendment.”
Some argue that SB 106, which the North Carolina General Assembly is expected to consider, is even broader than Ohio’s constitutional amendment. See below for more legal details on the possible effect of this amendment on domestic violence law.
More information from the coalition is below the fold.