Busing isn’t the answer for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

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Editor’s note: The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board is scheduled to take a key vote Tuesday evening on how it will move forward with a plan to assign students to schools. This piece is one of two op-eds the Agenda is publishing today on the issue, with differing opinions.

An estimated 1,000 parents gathered at Carmel Baptist church in Matthews last week to share time with Paul Bailey, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board representative. The forum was to provide clarity and discussion around student busing and reassignment. Currently CMS has neighborhood school zones.

Worries about diversity and a socioeconomic divide in some schools have pushed CMS to call for feedback. Man, have they received it. Sheer numbers alone should send the message: Parents aren’t interested in busing as the solution.

As a parent of a kindergartner, I sat at the forum overwhelmed — the word diversity was being thrown around. Heavily.

Mr. Bailey admitted the Board of Education has no plan yet for reassignment nor busing. “We haven’t even talked about that,” he said. Mr. Bailey said that the Board of Education is still “trying to determine what diversity is.”

Breaking up areas of poverty shouldn’t be the problem to be solved at the hands of students who live and play with friends next door and are now possibly to attend school elsewhere.

By his own admission, Mr. Bailey has yet to see, in person, more than half of the schools in his own district. But what he has seen has been of hardship and extreme need. This is heartbreaking. But busing isn’t the answer.

Busing won’t:

  • Increase parent involvement
  • Directly increase test scores
  • Change socioeconomic differences

We aren’t giving Charlotte enough credit. There is tremendous diversity within the neighborhood schools already.

One of my closest friends and mentor happens to live in a lower-income area. The work she does for her community is priceless. Busing her grandchildren 30 minutes out of that neighborhood isn’t the answer. Giving her the tools to continue her commitment to that community would.

For decades busing hasn’t worked. A report from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory back in 2002 showed that with parent involvement (regardless of family income or background), students with involved parents are more likely to:

  • Earn higher grades and test scores
  • Enroll in higher-level programs
  • Pass their classes
  • Earn credits
  • Attend school regularly
  • Do better socially
  • Show improved behavior
  • Adapt well to school
  • Graduate

To help achieve this, schools can for little or no cost provide:

  • Regular communication with parents about what children are learning.
  • Provide opportunities for parents to talk with school personnel about parents’ role in their children’s education
  • Family nights
  • Strong parent-teacher conferences

Shuffling the bus seats of our children and hoping test scores even out magically is not the answer for success. A great education experience for every child should remain the priority but we can’t disrupt neighborhoods. They are fundamental to family.

Let’s educate the community. No more confusing surveys. As parents, let’s hold the responsibility to get out there and share how to get involved at school level. Let’s help the schools by backing plans for parent involvement programs.

We need to separate the issue of diversity and opportunity and work to educate parents. Parents and caregivers need to understand the responsibly of education at home. We need parents to see how their involvement in schools can impact grades and test scores.

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