Last week Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) released results of an unscientific but nonetetheless interesting poll about student assignment. We can boil down the findings to the following statements: most parents like their schools, parents think their schools are already diverse and parents value neighborhood schools over diversity – by a wide margin.
Some of the numbers are worth reviewing. For example, 86 percent of parents across the county rate schools close to home as very or extremely important. Only 37 percent rated racial or ethnic diversity of students as very or extremely important. When asked to name the single most important factor in school selection, neighborhood schools were identified 46 percent of the time, compared to 3 percent and 1 percent for racial and income diversity. Also noteworthy is that only 19 percent of parents agreed it would be OK to take a longer bus ride to attend a diverse school. That after CMS erroneously initially reported the results as 82 percent.
Truth be told, these are troubling findings for CMS administrators. The district has spent the last few days tamping down the signficance of the results and reminding everyone that the poll results are only one data point.
Like many large urban districts, CMS has its share of good and bad. It has also been feeling increased competition from local charter and private schools. Fearful of long busrides, there is already discussion in some local communities of splitting with CMS. This as CMS prepares to hire a consultant to review its school assignment plan. The stakes are high for both sides.
Still, let’s not undersell the poll results. They seem to be shouting that parental priorities and the priorities of the school district don’t match.
A friendly reminder is in order: school employees work for parents and taxpayers. Not the other way around.
Let’s hope CMS does the right thing — for all concerned. .