Charlotte ended busing; should Louisville do the same?

Charlotte ended busing; should Louisville do the same?
Published: Feb. 10, 2016 at 9:18 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2016 at 10:33 PM EST
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This week on WAVE 3 News, our Dawne Gee and Eric Flack are examining the hot-button issue of busing in Louisville. Below is an article from our sister station, WBTV in Charlotte, N.C., a city that went through the same difficulties more than 40 years ago, but has made changes since. Reporter Steve Crump prepared this report specifically for Part III of our series.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WAVE) - Court-ordered busing for Louisville and Jefferson County was modeled after the pupil-assignment decision that came to Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, N.C., several years earlier in 1971.

Unlike Louisville, changes in attitudes and legal opinions in North Carolina have sent those plans back to the drawing board.

Crosstown busing is no longer the required delivery system for getting students to and from Charlotte classrooms.

In 1999, new court challenges dismantled this form of school desegregation.

Amy Hawn Nelson, a researcher with the UNC-Charlotte Urban Institute, wrote a book called "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: School Desegregation and Resegregation in Charlotte" that examines the city's assignment plans. Some of the data she gathered for the book revealed a disturbing trend.

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"We have a system of neighborhood schools with a strong layer of choice upon that," she said. "Now, we are firmly re-segregated."

Critics of neighborhood schools contend this concept of learning creates a two-tiered system, that affluent communities will get academic amenities, but schools in more challenged environments may be shut out.

Research in Nelson's office suggests higher dropout rates and poorer academic performance are the results of segregated schools, but local foundations and businesses across Charlotte raised $55 million in recent years to help schools in distressed areas through a program called Project Lift.

A woman named Sharon Broderick was picking up her child at Eastover Elementary School in an upscale part of Charlotte.

"Kids can walk to school," she said. "We're very interactive with the PTA, because we're so close."

However, parents like Tommie Richardson, who were waiting for the final bell at the Irwin Academic Center in Charlotte's inner-city, said they feel left behind.

"In the neighborhood schools where you've got predominately African-American kids, they're gonna have less resources than other kids in the school system," Richardson said.

The issue goes well beyond school resources for civil-rights activists.

"Neighborhood schools will lead to more isolation of people," said Geraldine Sumter, a civil-rights attorney who has fought against neighborhood schools in Charlotte.

Despite the difficulties and perceived disparities, the task is fulfilling the goal of academic excellence.

"Charlotte-Mecklenburg has some of the highest performing schools in our state (and) in our district," Nelson said. "And we have some of the lowest performing schools. What we're seeing is that the amenities are there for some children, but some children just can't access those amenities for a variety of reasons."

In 2016, the issues may not be second-hand books or impoverished schools getting used athletic uniforms or band instruments. These days, it's about creating access, opportunity and a level playing field.

Copyright 2016 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.