Outrage over the decision to close 10 Charlotte-Mucklenburg schools, with predominantly minority and low income students, by a white majority school board has lead to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
According the Charlotte Observer, seven complaints were filed after the November vote by the school board to close schools that serve mostly black, Hispanic and low-income students.
"Opening a complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination on the merits of the case," education department spokesman Jim Bradshaw said in an e-mail. "Rather, the office is merely a neutral fact-finder. It will collect and analyze all relevant evidence from the parties involved in the case to develop its findings."
Officials at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have said they are aware that the cuts have a lopsided effect on minority families, but insist that the decision was based on low enrollment and academic weakness, not race.
As the L.A. Times reports, for a district that's being branded as segregators for the closing, the district's recent policies have made progress to close the achievement gap between inner city minorities and suburban white students.
When superintendant Peter Gorman took his job in 2006, he lumped some low-performing schools into an "achievement zone," making them eligible for more funds, staff and professional development. He also put into place a successful policy in which his best-performing principals were encouraged to take reassignments in low-performance schools.
Between 2005-06 and 2009-10 school years, district records show that black students in grades 3 through 8 narrowed the achievement gap between white students by nine points. Latino students showed improvements as well.
However, given a looming $100 million shortfall, closing the schools made more sense to the school board in order to pay successful teachers.
Those in suburbs have also felt that they pay the price for bettering inner city schools. They typically lose star principals when they are reassigned to the inner city, and suburban classrooms are overstuffed due to more spending on poor students.
Parents like DeAndra Alix, whose son Deon is a freshman at the soon-to-be-shuttered E.E. Waddell High School, have repeatedly tried to get the school board to redraw its boundaries to allow unused classrooms in the inner city to be filled by suburban students from crowded schools.
"What this is doing is awakening a beast in hibernation," she said: "The civil rights movement."