On February 9th, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board heard comment from the CMS community about its school reassignment plan. The goal of the plan is to increase diversity and loosen concentrated areas of poverty.
Among the speakers at the hearing were three members of Students for Education Reform North Carolina. They exhorted the board and the assembled community members to embrace the goals of the reassignment plan, drawing on personal experience to make their points.
Steveen Vargas, a Central Piedmont Community College student, told the crowd about his experience in CMS — where his younger sister currently attends school. He said he felt it was his responsibility to advocate for her and the students that would come after her.
When he returned to CMS to attend prom and hang out with some of his friends, he said he learned a disturbing fact. When he asked them their plans for the future, they said they were aiming for careers such as electrician or mechanic.
“At that moment, I realized there was a culture of repression towards minorities,” he said.
Lyanna Moua, a student at West Charlotte High, began her comments with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
She went on to say that many had sacrificed, suffered, and struggled to give her generation a better future.
“I know my parents have given up their sleep and time to raise all eight of us to our best potentials,” she said.
She told the board that she refused “to be a statistic.” And she said where students live often determines their success.
“All scholars should have equal access to quality schools across the city,” she said.
She also cautioned that just increasing diversity isn’t enough.
“Diversity itself will not promote progress if we are not intentional about equity and equality once the lines are drawn,” she said.
Kayla Romero is a former CMS teacher who told the board she is trying to decide if Charlotte is where she wants to have a home and raise a family. She went on to say that she is invested in the community and school system.
“I want to ask the school board to be courageous in undertaking a new student assignment plan,” she said. “Take this opportunity to bring greater equity and justice across Charlotte.”
She said that while she didn’t think the reassignment plan was a cure-all, it was a good start. And she set a challenge to the assembled community members.
“Think about the privilege and advantage it takes to choose your neighborhood. To choose the zip code that you raise your child in.” she said. “And that privilege and advantage has been denied to communities of color across Charlotte and beyond.”
She also said that ultimately, more needs to be done in CMS.
“These goals are a great first step, but it is the beginning of what needs to be much bolder,” she said.
Her comments came directly after those of another community member — a father who said: “When my child will be forced to travel to a community that does not value education to the same extent as I do, I have to draw the line.”
Here is a video of the meeting.