Battle Over N.C. Busing Heats Up

"If you have a school full of nothing but kids coming from poverty with all the challenges that they bring, it's very hard to make those schools effective schools," Petrilli said.

But some parents in Raleigh have been vocal in their support of the school board's vote. They argue kids should be able to go to the school in the neighborhood where they live.

"I am proud of the school board because you're doing exactly what the families need and want," said one father during a public comment period during a school board meeting earlier this week. "Keep up the good work and thank you for ending forced busing."

"Our schools were being operated by social engineers, not educators," added another dad.

Five Miles From Home Is the Farthest Distance to Attend School

But proponents of the policy say accounts of students forced to travel great distances are highly exaggerated. They point out that of the more than 140,000 students in the county, 86 percent attend a school within 5 miles from home, another 12 percent attend magnet schools, leaving only 3 percent of children who have to travel more than 5 miles to get to school.

Mike Petrilli says that while no parent wants their child to have to be the one to get on a bus hours earlier than others in the neighborhood, for the larger community, the burden may be worth the benefit.

"I would say it's a lost opportunity, that something very special was happening in Wake County, that was a real beacon for the rest of the county and it's too bad it's going away," he said. "At the same time, it's unfair to single out Wake County because they're now going to a system that every other system in the country practically already embraces."

The Wake County school board is formulating a new plan to replace the old policy with the help of outside educators and experts. They will hold a series of public comment meetings this fall.

Rev. Barber, who attended kindergarten and first grade in the segregated South, says his group and others will be there and are considering legal action to bring the busing back.

"When you know the history of the South, the one thing the South should never want to do is step backwards. One step backwards any way into resegregation is shameful," he said. "Diversity is a good thing, diversity is what's right, diversity is what we ought to be shooting for, diversity is a way to right economic and racial injustice. It's a blessed reality."

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