Monday, December 05, 2005

Unitary Status

It is long since time that we should have ended the desegregation case that was started in 1967. Bertie County has not discriminated in more than 30 years at least. The U.S. Attorneys and the Board of Education lawyers will never concede that though. Today at the Bertie County Board of Commissioners meeting, I expressed the following opinions about what we need to do next with regard to ending the desgregation order against Bertie County.

I recently obtained a copy of the federal court order that is reportedly the reason our Board of Education solicited a study from Heery Consultants. In the course of reading both the order and the Heery report, it became clear that the recommendations to spend money are completely inconsistent with the order under the consent decree.

It is important to remember the purpose of the consent decree. It is intended to eliminate the vestiges of past racial discrimination. It does not turn our school choices over to the courts, except to address the issues of past discrimination and past segregation to accomplish discrimination. Embarrassingly, our case is one of only three counties in North Carolina that have not been settled.

If the Board of Education allows the claim that Bertie County is still so segregated and discriminatory that they must spend 35 million dollars to overcome this discrimination, it will be both ridiculous and an insult to our county and our Board of Commissioners. The tax consequences of their request will be destructive to education.

It is the position of the United States attorneys that JP Law Elementary has defects that are still based upon ongoing segregation. If correct, then fixing those defects is an appropriate obligation under the consent decree. What is not appropriate or reasonable is the claim by the Board of Education that the Heery report addresses issues for which the court is the correct forum.

It is not. Setting aside the issue of JP Law, none of the upgrades being requested are in any way related to past or current discrimination. Yet that is what the Board of Education is apparently trying to claim by sending them to the court. It is not the court's business to decide how much money we spend on education. The court can only intervene if a specific school defect is the result of segregation or discrimination, past or ongoing. That discrimination must be proved. I repeat; none of these proposals can claim to be justified on the basis of discrimination by Bertie County.

We cannot allow the court to order the level of funding they desire for ongoing school facilities. The Board of Education needs to be required to go back and appropriately respond to the U.S. Attorneys claim that the defects in JP Law are the result of discrimination and limit their response to a defense of Bertie County. They must be stopped from asking for any actions or expenditures not based on discrimination. If not stopped, the judge will rule wrongly based on their wish list of expenditures.

Government discrimination has been ended in Bertie County for some time. We should be granted what the courts call "Unitary Status" which would end court supervision of our county's schools. We need to insure that the judge receives views of the citizens of Bertie County who do not believe that the current and recent boards have practiced discrimination that affects the education of our children. I hereby request that the Bertie County Board of Commissioners immediately intervene in this case to protect the interests of Bertie County and its citizens.

There is a meeting tonight that citizens who are concerned need to attend. Information about the meeting can be found at this link. I hope to see you there.


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