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In North Carolina, Cuts to School Budgets Raise Civil Rights Questions

Who rides the bus? Who pays for it?

Like school systems across the country, the Charlotte-Mecklenberg schools have a budget gap. To close it, they first announced they’d close eight schools.  Because of where the schools were and the students they serve this has prompted a federal investigation into civil rights violations.

Today, the Charlotte-Mecklenberg schools announced that instead of closing schools, they’d cut back on bus service.  The schools are also looking to cut programs that help the students who need the most — pre-kindergarten programs and those that assign more teachers to schools in low-income areas.  Of course cutting back on bus service also means kids that take the bus to magnet schools won’t be able to get to their magnet schools anymore. They’ll still have to be bused, just not as far.

Is it surprising that when a school board is considering cuts to close a budget gap the first place they turn is to the programs that help the students the most? No. Disappointing but not surprising.
An opinion piece in the Charlotte Observer says:

Taxpayers should start paying close attention now and weigh in on what’s important to them as budget talks for next school year get under way. The price of some cuts may be too steep for any savings gained. If struggling students lose access to programs that have been helping boost their learning, more are likely to fail academically and drop out. The ripple effect of that in unemployment, crime and other problems will be a lot more costly to tackle than the present budget woes.

This isn’t a new story, but it is disappointing.

Just yesterday, Madeline wrote about the truly encouraging news that cities in this country are becoming less segregated.  More African Americans are moving into the middle class and middle class neighborhoods.  According to Madeline’s post, the West and South have the least segregation.  And yet, the cuts proposed in the Charlotte-Mecklenberg system would weigh much more heavily on African Americans, Hispanics, and low income students. (NB: I’m assuming not all black and hispanic students in the Charlotte system are low-income.)  But I also read yesterday on Andrew Sullivan’s blog the Daily Dish that African American upward mobility is the most precarious.
We all know that academic gains are fragile, that they need to be nurtured from year to year.  Cutting schools, programs and services that support those who need it the most?  It’s just short sighted. And, depending on what the federal investigators find out, it may be illegal.

What do you think? Should school budget decisions be stopped because of possible civil rights violations?

photo credit: wiki commons

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