Wake County Needs New PR

Yes, I stole that title from Matthew Turner and his Jesus Needs New PR blog.  Today, he posted an entry about Alabama’s new governor, Robert Bentley who told a crowd in an MLK day speech that anyone who wasn’t a Christian wasn’t his brother or sister.  That was a “woosah” moment for thinking people all over Alabama.   Unfortunately, we’ve had more than a few of those moments ourselves here in Wake County, N.C., courtesy of the Wake County School Board.  Watch the video from last night’s Colbert Report to see what I’m talking about:


If you’re not in a position to watch the video (or just don’t feel like it), here’s a quick rundown: The school board was arrogant and unresponsive, which earned them a ticket home in the last election.  That turnover brought a conservative majority to the board and one of the first things they decided to work on was school assignment.  You see, over the last few years, the Wake County Public School System had become one of the nation’s acknowledged leaders in socio-economic diversity.  People were copying our plan all over the place.  Unfortunately, one of the ways they achieved this diversity was by busing.  Kids were getting shipped across the county for school and it seemed that every year, there was a new assignment plan coming out.  Not a very good situation for the kids, I’ll admit.  But, the newcomer’s idea to deal with this is a return to “community-based” schools.  In other words, resegregation.  Maybe not racial resegregation, but certainly economic resegregation.  That’s bad enough, but then, there are comments like this one, from board member John Tedesco, “If we had a school that was, like 80% high poverty, the public would see the challenges, the need ot make it successful.  …Right now, we have diluted the problem, so we can ignore it.”  See what I mean?  As soon as I saw it show up on Colbert, I started rubbing my earlobes and chanting “woosah, woosah”.  These people fight like middle-schoolers (Tedesco called fellow member Debra Goldman “Barbie”, if I remember correctly), don’t seem to have any concept of fairness and, in Tedesco’s case at least, say ridiculous crap like the quote shown above.  I’m don’t see any improvement over the last school board.

I know you’re wondering why I’m talking about something that seems to be a strictly political issue on a religious blog.  Short answer: this is a social justice issue and, as a Christian and a Methodist, social justice issues are important to me.  It’s important because, if this is enacted, kids at poor schools are going to get left behind.  And, I can’t get past the nagging suspicion that these folks don’t want their kids rubbing shoulders with poor, black and Hispanic kids.  I hope I’m wrong.  I hope that the only reason that this new conservative majority wants to return to community schools is so their kids aren’t spending hours on a bus each day and not because they think they’re better than anyone else.  But, I don’t know.

It’s in everyone’s best interest that all children get the best possible education, especially those less fortunate.  Education is really the only way out of poverty and it’s the responsibility of all of us to see that none of our brothers and sisters is in need.  That’s kinda what this whole Christian thing is all about.  If we could work it out, that would be some excellent PR.