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Goodbye, school diversity. Busing to end in Wake County, N.C.


The Wake County, N.C., school district has decided to reverse its income-based integration plan, which served as a national model for a decade as school systems sought alternatives to traditional racial-balancing plans.

With protesters shouting in the background, the school board in Raleigh voted 5-to-4 to develop attendance zones closer to students’ homes. Advocates say the new plan will spare children long bus rides, while opponents claim it will lead to racial “resegregation” and more concentrated poverty in certain schools.

The decision is part of a national trend in which school districts are backing off active attempts to bring about diversity, says Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Many districts looked to Wake County’s experience with income-based assignments after a 2007 US Supreme Court decision struck down voluntary desegregation plans that rely too heavily on race.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has led the opposition to the move in Wake County, which has been brewing since last fall, when voters elected a majority of board members who wanted to end the socioeconomic busing policy.

Parents and residents who spoke in favor of the new policy at Tuesday’s board meeting said busing for the purpose of economic diversity poses an unfair burden on families, in terms of costs to the district and in time that children could spend on learning rather than being transported.

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