The End of Consensus

The End of Consensus: Diversity, Neighborhoods, and the Politics of Public School Assignments

Toby L. Parcel
Andrew J. Taylor
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469622552_parcel
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  • Book Info
    The End of Consensus
    Book Description:

    One of the nation's fastest growing metropolitan areas, Wake County, North Carolina, added more than a quarter million new residents during the first decade of this century, an increase of almost 45 percent. At the same time, partisanship increasingly dominated local politics, including school board races. Against this backdrop, Toby Parcel and Andrew Taylor consider the ways diversity and neighborhood schools have influenced school assignment policies in Wake County, particularly during 2000-2012, when these policies became controversial locally and a topic of national attention.The End of Consensusexplores the extraordinary transformation of Wake County during this period, revealing inextricable links between population growth, political ideology, and controversial K-12 education policies.Drawing on media coverage, in-depth interviews with community leaders, and responses from focus groups, Parcel and Taylor's innovative work combines insights from these sources with findings from a survey of 1,700 county residents. Using a broad range of materials and methods, the authors have produced the definitive story of politics and change in public school assignments in Wake County while demonstrating the importance of these dynamics to cities across the country.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-2256-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface and Plan of the Book
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. 1 Assigning Children to Public Schools
    (pp. 1-13)

    The story of Wake County public schools is complex and the events of 2009–11 long in development. Initially there was considerable agreement about the governance of schools in the district, but slowly, from about the mid-1990s, deep disputes evolved over a variety of matters. These became particularly fierce by the time of the historic election—and the seating of the county’s first Republican-backed school board majority.¹

    The fracturing of Wake’s consensus had multiple causes, but it largely broke apart over two differing models of educational arrangements in American life. The first, a traditional model, presents schools as integral parts...

  6. 2 The Wake County Public School System A SOCIAL AND POLITICAL HISTORY
    (pp. 14-32)

    Before 1976, Wake County children went to public schools in either of two different jurisdictions, Raleigh or one containing the county’s smaller towns that ringed the capital city—places like Apex, Cary, Garner, Knightdale, Fuquay-Varina, Wake Forest, Wendell, and Zebulon. Despite their geographical proximity, the two systems were quite distinct and self-contained. Raleigh’s was wealthier and its African American children segregated into a small number of predominantly African American schools like Ligon High in the city’s southeast. The rest of Wake County was rural and had a smaller per-capita tax base, but residential patterns meant it was more naturally integrated....

  7. 3 A Focus of Conflict I WAKE SCHOOLS’ GENERAL STUDENT ASSIGNMENT POLICY
    (pp. 33-50)

    Intense disagreements about the conflicting cultural models of public education were a leading cause of the breakdown of Wake County’s consensus in the 1990s and first decade of the 2000s. On one side, many board members and liberal activists from groups like the Great Schools in Wake coalition saw diversity—effectively the status quo in the county for the twenty-three years before the watershed 2009 elections—to be in the interests of each individual student, as well as of the system collectively. They believed it was critical to a strategy to elevate academic achievement, a goal stressed by the state...

  8. 4 A Focus of Conflict II ANNUAL STUDENT REASSIGNMENTS
    (pp. 51-64)

    One of the most dramatic consequences of Wake County’s rapid growth in the 1990s and early 2000s—the number of residents under age eighteen increased from 100,000 in 1990 to about 260,000 in 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau 2010)—was the need to build new schools or add classroom space to existing facilities. As noted in chapter 2, the county was granted authority to borrow for expansion, mainly in the form of new construction, by voters who approved a number of bond issuances. But even though forty-four elementary schools, fifteen middle schools, and twelve high schools were added between 1991 and...

  9. 5 A Focus of Conflict III YEAR-ROUND SCHOOLS
    (pp. 65-76)

    The rather ad hoc annual reassignment process was just one strategy used by the school board to manage explosive growth and resource constraints. Another more innovative and possibly politically consequential response was year-round schools.¹ Following an investigation of the benefits of year-round schooling in the mid-1980s, Wake County opened its first such campus, Kingswood Elementary, in 1989–90. Initially conceived as part of the broader magnet program, year-round schools split their classes into four “tracks” or schedules; at any one time, all students on one of the tracks are out of school. The effect is to create a calendar in...

  10. 6 The Great Split ELECTION 2009 AND ITS AFTERMATH
    (pp. 77-89)

    The Wake County school board consists of nine members, each representing a contiguous and relatively compact district in the county for a four-year term. Prior to 2014 the elections were held in odd-numbered years with four seats up in one cycle and five in the next.¹ In 2009 there were four contests, for the seats in the first, second, seventh, and ninth districts. Although only one sitting member of the board, Ron Margiotta, had emerged as an ally of conservatives and an opponent to the majority’s policies, control of the county’s school system was up for grabs. This was because...

  11. 7 Is Wake Different?
    (pp. 90-108)

    We believe the Wake County case is important. But is it typical, or perhaps unique? Why was Wake able to sustain diversity in public school assignments for many years while other districts have not? Have other jurisdictions experienced such contentious politics surrounding assignments? In this chapter we compare Wake with a number of other urban and suburban jurisdictions to set the county’s experience into a broader national context. We place these districts into a four-cell typology that helps us understand more about Wake’s public schools compared with other systems in North Carolina, the South, and beyond.

    Earlier we remarked upon...

  12. 8 An Epilogue and Conclusion
    (pp. 109-122)

    The central purpose of this book has been to explain the end of a consensus surrounding public school governance in Wake County. We found that explosive population growth, elevated partisanship and politicization of local matters, and a growing and increasingly coordinated opposition to the existing school board majority and its decisions, particularly those surrounding diversity in student assignments, brought about tremendous change in board composition and many policies. The board elected in 2009 found governing difficult, and Republican control lasted only two years. Despite the establishment of a pro-diversity majority after 2011, however, the old policy was not immediately or...

  13. Methodological Appendix
    (pp. 123-134)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 135-144)
  15. References
    (pp. 145-162)
  16. Index
    (pp. 163-170)