Racist school plan ignites struggle

Fighting North Carolina resegregation
Racist school plan ignites struggle
Published Apr 1, 2010 9:32 PM

By Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST)
Raleigh, N.C.

The looming threat of a return to the dark days of Jim Crow segregation has ignited a broad struggle against the racist new Raleigh school board majority.

On March 23, the board was scheduled to take the second of two votes needed to dismantle the system’s busing program and move to a “neighborhood schools” model. It would mean the resegregation of the school system.

With less than 24 hours notice, the board instituted a number of restrictions in access to the meeting, including: taking seats out of the already insufficient seating area; requiring the public to get a ticket for the meeting at 10 a.m. and then stay in the building until 3 p.m. or forfeit the ticket; bringing in dozens of cops and security guards, and erecting a barricade between the board and the public.

It was all designed to stifle the overwhelming opposition to their agenda.

When the board decided to cut off public comment and begin voting on the resegregation plans, a group of nearly 70 high school students attempted to make their way into the meeting.

After being shut out by a line of cops, the students began a spirited sit-in right outside the meeting room, chanting, “Shut it down! No segregation in our town!”

Parents, teachers and community members from several different progressive and civil rights organizations immediately joined the students in the hallway, taking their lead.

The sit-in forced the board into recess. Chair Ron Margiotta came out to the hallway to tell students to “respect the process.” He was drowned out as the students began to chant, “Hey hey, ho ho! Pope Foundation’s got to go!” This ultra-right foundation is the funder of the racist new majority on the board and architect of a 30-year plan to dismantle public education.

Resistance continues despite arrests

One student was arrested in the hallway and the rest were kicked out of the building by the cops. But that did not dampen the energy of the demonstrators, who continued to rally outside for nearly two and a half hours. Two more arrests were made outside as students attempted to reenter the building and make their voices heard before the vote.

Because of the size and scope of the demonstration, as well as the broad base of organizations represented, the story was covered in numerous major news outlets around the country. National media has been forced to report on the issue for what it is: a powerful anti-racist struggle waged by the community that exposes the clear connections between this racist school board majority and the larger power brokers at play.

After 30 years of solid community backing of the busing program, the new majority on the school board, dubbed the Resegregationist 5, was elected in an off-year of the staggered election cycle by only 5 percent of registered voters.

Behind this carefully orchestrated plan to destroy public education are some of the richest conservatives in North Carolina: Art Pope of the John W. Pope Foundation, Robert Luddy of the Civitas Institute, and Americans for Prosperity, the group behind the right-wing “Tea Party” protests.

Ron Margiotta, chair of the school board, also sits on the board of trustees for Thales Academy, a private school in Apex, a suburb of Raleigh.

It is clear that this is a battle of ideology, not fact. The election of the new majority is but another piece in the master plan of Pope and his cohorts to spread their right-wing agenda to public education and to ultimately put education into the hands of private interests. They have already been behind dismantling the Women and Gender Studies Program at North Carolina State University and funding “Western Studies” programs in public universities.

The all-white majority was elected on a promise to dismantle the busing system in Wake County and implement a program they call “neighborhood schools,” which is nothing but a thinly veiled disguise for resegregation.

If the shift to “neighborhood schools” is allowed to reach its conclusion, there will be a two-tiered education system in Wake County: well-funded, less-crowded schools with mostly affluent white students, and poorly funded, overcrowded, high-poverty schools in Black and Latino/a communities. In effect, a return to the ugly, segregated past of Jim Crow.

This attack on oppressed people and communities in Wake County, which would devastate the quality of education available to Black and Latino/a students in the county, has galvanized the NAACP and other organizations to mount strong opposition to this plan.

Struggle to end resegregation

Fifty years ago, students stood up to fight back against racist, Jim Crow segregation in the U.S. South, ushering in a landslide of historic and monumental changes in society. Today, students are taking action to defend those gains and the right of all students to a quality, public education from the attacks of the right-wing, Resegregationist 5.

The new majority has faced overwhelming opposition every step of the way as evidenced by the bold action taken at the school board meeting on March 23. Despite the fact that the new majority passed the resolution to begin the transition to “neighborhood schools,” the struggle led by students opened political space and emboldened the board minority to propose and pass two amendments to the resolution.

This fight is only in its early stages. If the action at the March 23 school board meeting is any indication, students and community members are committed to continuing to build the struggle to stop resegregation. The newly installed right-wing board’s plan to move to “neighborhood schools” will not remain in the face of united community resistance.

We say no to Jim Crow — we won’t go back!

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