The real agenda of the resegregationists

By: - October 29, 2009 4:50 pm

The contentious battle for control of the Wake County Board of Education continues after the State Board of Elections ruled this week that a runoff election for the District 2 seat must be held.

In the voting three weeks ago, resegregationist candidate John Tedesco fell just short of a majority and second place finisher Cathy Truitt called for a runoff, correctly warning voters that Tedesco’s plan to end the policy of using economic diversity in student assignment would resegregate the Wake schools.

But Truitt changed her mind and asked that the runoff be cancelled even though the ballots had been printed and the election scheduled.  The decision by the State Board means voters in District 2 will head back to the polls Tuesday in the race that will decide if resegregationists will control the board of education.

Three candidates who have pledged to end the current policy of keeping all schools healthy with an economically diverse student body have already been elected. Tedesco would make four, joining current board member Ron Margiotta in forming a five to four majority to undo much of the progress of the school system in the last 25 years.

Tedesco and the new board members bristle at that sort of talk, painting themselves as cautious and thoughtful, with an open mind about how to adjust student assignment plans. They say they want neighborhood schools, but that means resegregattion, whether they want to admit it publicly or not.

There is widespread speculation that Margiotta will be the next chair of the board, a prospect that ought to give every parent in Wake County pause.  Far too little has been written about Margiotta’s views and the aims of many of his close allies who were the principal funders of the campaign to end the current healthy schools policy.

Margiotta is not just an opponent of using diversity in reassignment. He wants to dramatically remake Wake County Schools in almost every way and his blueprint is one developed by the far right.  Earlier this year Margiotta proposed ending the magnet school program that is widely popular with parents.

He supports returning to the abstinence-only sex education curriculum that the General Assembly broadened this summer. Margiotta has also called for breaking up Wake County Schools into several smaller districts. That’s a throwback to his service on school boards in his home state of New Jersey, a state that has almost 600 different school systems.

Margiotta has voted against every school budget that has been proposed during his tenure and he helped lead the effort against the scaled down school construction bond issue that voters passed handily in 2006. He has spent much of his time on the board throwing roadblocks in the way of progress in his efforts to remake public schools.

He has plenty of help in his crusade.  Far and away the biggest donor to the resegregationist candidates and the PAC that provides them additional support is businessman Robert Luddy, who in addition to running his own for-profit school, is a board member of both the John Locke Foundation and the Pope Civitas Institute, groups that openly advocate for school vouchers and other school privatization schemes.

Tedesco and the other resegregationists about to take over Wake County Schools like to say they want to give control of the school system to the parents, wrongly assuming that most parents in the county agree with their backwards agenda.

And it’s not the parents they want to give more power to anyway. It’s the ideologues like Margiotta and Luddy, whose preoccupation with public schools is driven primarily by their fervent passion to dismantle them.  

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066