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Stability, not diversity, should be the focus for CMS

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is rethinking its approach to student assignment and attendance lines. Critics say “forced bussing” should be avoided.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is rethinking its approach to student assignment and attendance lines. Critics say “forced bussing” should be avoided. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

From Boe Clark, president of All CMS Kids, a parents’ group seeking to preserve neighborhood schools, expand magnet options and block forced busing of students.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and the Charlotte Observer should focus on community-uniting programs and personnel objectives that address root cause issues while protecting what works. The Observer could do a far greater community service by focusing this Board of Education’s more radical members on sustainable policy objectives rather than dis-unifying, objectively discredited social engineering schemes.

Let’s focus the student assignment discussion on improving and extending existing programs (LIFT, Beacon, JROTC) that show promise in producing the desired parent and student engagement and achievement results in communities with low socioeconomic attainment rather than focusing on discredited and divisive schemes that divide people across racial and economic lines.

The current path is a lose-lose approach, and it will lead to unfortunate, unintended consequences for CMS kids, parents, and communities.

Longer bus rides equal lower parent engagement (unless it is a parent choice where they commit to the longer drives in ever more traffic). Longer school commutes make it harder for the CMS parent to attend activities, volunteer, and support programs. The vital relationships that underpin “community” are unintentionally eroded.

Clearly this longer bus ride agenda, without true parent choice, moves CMS in the wrong direction. And most objective data – excepting statistical outliers – point to this conclusion.

Stable + Predictable = Sustainable. (With opportunity to leverage community unity, engage parent volunteerism, and focus on programs and personnel).

Unstable + Unpredictable = Unsustainable. (With mass exodus of CMS and disunity).

If the board continues on its current path, new charter school starts and growth rates will accelerate (further depleting reportedly scarce CMS funding), private school enrollment will flourish, parents will decide not to volunteer in an unfriendly system, and mass exodus in favor of more stable and predictable school assignment counties will ensue.

The keys to sustainable, community-uniting, high-performing schools are contained in the All CMS Kids Policy Platform:

▪ Guaranteed neighborhood school assignment for all CMS kids.

▪ New schools in neighborhoods where growth is occurring (not distant “perimeter” schools).

▪ Expanded magnet options (number and size)

▪ 100 percent parent choice (No forced busing)

▪ Top quality principals and teachers

▪ Best-in-class programs (locally tailored with school level decision authority and autonomy).

Stability and predictability of home school assignment combined with intensive focus on programs and personnel in under-performing schools is the only sustainable, community-uniting solution. All else is divisive and counter productive.

Unite communities, focus on root cause issues, fix what is broken and don’t muck with what is already working.

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