Carolina Impact, Season 7: Episode 9 – CMS Resegregation and Charter Schools

Carolina Impact, Season 7: Episode 9 – CMS Resegregation and Charter Schools


Jeff? – Yeah. If the problem is school
segregation on one side, school overcrowding
on the other side, and kids on both sides are
suffering the consequences depending on where they live, well good luck
finding a compromise. And that’s pretty much the
situation here in Huntersville, one of several towns
where CMS supporters are squaring off
against the suburbs. (rhythmic music) This is the CMS
they want you to see in a commercial made
by CMS, about CMS. But here is what the
commercial doesn’t show you. – That it’s the most
racially segregated school district in the state. (school chatter) – [Jeff] The civil rights
attorney, who says, “Charlotte Mecklenburg has too
many mostly white schools.” And former CMS student who says, “There are too many
mostly black schools.” – I speak up here
as a student who saw the benefits of desegregation. Frankly I was lucky,
I got integration. Everybody didn’t
get integration. – The pressure comes not just
from the white community, our schools are profoundly
economically segregated as well. – [Jeff] And the school
board member who says there too many
mostly poor schools. – And we need your support
to help us stand up to that. (applause) – [Jeff] They’re all
speakers at this event, where there was a crucial
conversation about the future of school integration. – One of the things
that’s always striking when I think about Charlotte
and how we got from there to here is how quickly
everything unraveled. ♪ “We Shall Overcome” – [Jeff] It all started
back in the 70’s when the courts ordered
busing in Charlotte to balance the black schools
with the white schools. – Today’s ruling says
in effect that busing and school paring are
acceptable means of eliminating racially identifiable schools. – [Jeff] CMS busing and
the integrated schools that came with it
went on for decades, until another court
order in 1997 said busing was no longer
needed for integration. Which brings us to today. – That there is this
implicit threat that if you, school board, try to do
something that might address the segregation in the
traditional public schools we have an option to leave. – [Jeff] Mark Dorison is
the civil right attorney from Chapel Hill
talking about the move by Mecklenburg suburban towns
toward opening their own charter schools in
competition with CMS. – Charters have created,
are like a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads
of any school board that’s really seriously
committed to taking on the issue of segregation
and resegregation. This authority was
created in reaction to a commitment by CMS to
try to create more integrated traditional public schools. And it was pushed by
communities that are happy with the status
quo, which is that the schools their
students attend are high white affluent schools. – Well that statement
couldn’t be any further from the truth. – [Jeff] Huntersville mayor,
John Anorella says his town’s interest in charter
schools actually came after a billion dollar bond
referendum by CMS two years ago, with only one new school
for North Mecklenburg. He adds that in Huntersville,
the issue isn’t race or wealth, it’s overcrowding. – [John] And we felt that CMS,
once again, was not building schools where children
are or will be. And Huntersville, we have
thousands of children that are on wait list for
charter schools. So obviously there’s
a demand for it. And I think really, what
my sense is that people are looking for some certainty
about where their children are going to school. – [Jeff] At Huntersville
Elementary, one certainty is that at some point, all
these kids, black or white, will wind up in the rusty,
crusty, mobile classrooms out back behind the
main school building. You can tell the
mobiles have been here in Huntersville a long time. Just look at the size of these
shrubs outside, overgrown just like the school itself. – I don’t understand
the racism quotes. This is about trying to
establish good quality schools for every child in
North Mecklenburg. – And again that’s not a
white issue or a black issue. You know, who wants
their child, high school middle school or either
elementary school to spend the majority of their
time in trailers. That is certainly
something that I didn’t want for my children. – [Jeff] Dr. Michael Stevens
isn’t just a CMS parent, he’s also Senior Pastor at the
City Church in Huntersville. His congregation here is
mostly African American. A lot of families with their
kids in CMS schools too. And Stevens says the
Huntersville he knows is a long way from elitist. – ‘Cause you still have
pockets of poverty. You still have pockets
of fragile neighborhoods within a three, four mile
radius of Huntersville. So I have a hard time
accepting that, in fact I would counter that and
say, we’re not to that that elitism environment
in Huntersville. That’s just not who we are. – You feel like your
people in this congregation for the most part are
comfortable with the idea of public charter
schools in Huntersville? – If I had to say percentage
wise, I’d say it’s a good 60-40 split. 60 being comfortable, 40
there’s some concern still. And again, I think
the conversation
stems more toward the quality, not necessarily
location, not necessarily whether it’s public or
even charter, but you know where can my child have the
best opportunity to succeed. – By the way that civil
rights attorney from earlier in our story, well he says
he expects legal action to stop Huntersville and
the other suburban towns from ever opening their
own charter schools. Meanwhile there’s a bill
in Raleigh, House Bill 514 that’s already passed, giving
Huntersville, Cornelius, Mid Hill and Matthews
all the green light to go ahead with
charter schools.

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