Leading from the Left

Monday, April 17, 2006

Equity, what it means for the kids

I've been asked nearly every day on the campaign trail about school merger and equitable funding for the schools. With regard to equity, there is a consistent theme I keep hearing from voters in the southern part of the county. They say things like "Their schools (Orange County Schools) are 4th in the state? Is equity really a problem? Why should I care about equity?"

I usually answer by saying something along the lines of "We're ONE county, a very wealthy county at that. It's important that all kids, whether they live in the north or south, get as high quality an education as we can possibly afford." Or sometimes I say, "Well, NC schools are ranked 42nd in the nation. Being ranked 4th in a state that is ranked that low isn't good enough for Orange County.

That 4th place ranking is a statistic. What lies underneath that statistic? When OCS parent talk about inequity, what do they mean?

After talking to a Carrboro resident who stopped me to talk about the schools as I was putting up campaign yard signs Saturday morning, it occured to me that there are many facts that have been lost in the fog of the merger discussions. Here are a few facts that highlight why we need to focus on resolving equity issues between our two school systems.

¸ Stanback middle school has no science labs. The children study science from textbooks and worksheets.
¸ The county schools do not have AVID, unlike Chapel Hill Carrboro schools. AVID is a program that helps some African-American kids improve achievement.
¸ Orange County Schools have 1 ESL teacher (English as a Second Language) for 4 schools. I've been told the latino population at Grady Brown Elementary school more than doubled this school year, now standing at around 70 students.

I suspect few people really know the specifics about the differences in resources between our two school systems. In the coming days, time permitting, I will be highlighting more of the differences between our two schools systems. The more information you have, as a voter, the better decisions you'll make.

I believe our two school systems should receive roughly equitable resources, and if elected to the Board of County Commissioners I will work to see that happens.