NC committee takes on assignment of looking into dividing school districts

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - A committee full of democrat and republican lawmakers gathered in Raleigh Wednesday morning to talk about if dividing school districts is the best option for students. The politicians reviewed numbers of large North Carolina school districts and smaller school districts at the meeting to see if there was a big difference.

"At the end of this process can we add value to the education of children so that more of our children graduate ready to go to work or go to college," Committee Co-Chair Rep. Bill Brawley said.

Numbers show that Wake County is the largest school district in North Carolina with more than 160,000 students. Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) district comes in second with more than 147,000 students. When it comes to academic achievement Wake and CMS have about 63 percent of their third graders reading on grade level.

Numbers also show for school districts less than 3,200 students only about 55 percent of third graders are making the grade in reading. The numbers also show a little more students get a high school diploma in larger school districts than smaller ones.  Numbers were presented at the first meeting, committee members say more numbers are needed before a decision is made.

"It's not conclusive, but it is beginning to clarify, before all we had were opinion - now we got some data," Brawley said.

CMS leaders were at the meeting. They say to them, numbers shared show there is no need to divide large schools districts.

"I saw no evidence that breaking up larger districts would be the more efficient way of doing things." CMS school board member Dr. Ruby Jones said.

Committee members also saw how school districts are broken up in other southern states.  According to 2013 student numbers, North Carolina had 1.5 million students divided up into 115 school districts that is compared to Kentucky that has 682,300 students split up into 174 school districts. The data also shows Florida has 2.7 million students divided into 67 school districts. Committee members will use the data to make a recommendation to the General Assembly in May.

"The focus still has to be what gives us the best educational outcome for our children. That's the most important thing here," Brawley said.

Senator Joyce Waddell is also on the committee.  She is cautious about the committee and is concerned lawmakers may use this research as a coverup to separate school districts in order to re-segregate the schools.

"We don't want to turn back to where we were," Senator Joyce Waddell said.

The politician also says before making a decision, she wants school leaders to weigh in.

"We are going to look forward to having them involved to see what they think and their data and what their constituencies are thinking and the consequences," Waddell said.

The committee will meet three more times before making a decision.  The next meeting is March 4 where more information will be shared.

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