North Carolina Sen. Deanna Ballard has clapped back at Democratic candidates for state superintendent after they criticized the state for backing school choice programs.
Some of the candidates argued that school choice programs promote the resegregation of schools. Ballard said the candidates' arguments are false.
“But resegregation is another offensive lie designed to drum up vitriol against a political party,” she said in a statement.
The candidates' comments were made at a political forum last weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina. The six Democrats and Republican Superintendent Mark Johnson went head-to-head ahead of the March primary election.
County School Board Member James Barrett and University of North Carolina professor Jen Mangrum, both state superintendent candidates, referred to the school choice programs as a form of “segregation,” the News Observer reported.
Mangrum told the audience that she is “anti-charter.” Mangrum said that charter schools are a place for “white, affluent families to escape.”
Ballard said the racism claims are the critics “last hope for killing school choice,” but she thinks it is a shot in the dark.
Enrollment numbers in North Carolina paint a different picture from the “white flight” that Mangrum described, according to Ballard.
About 20 percent of school-aged children do not attend traditional public schools, according to state numbers. The charter schools have a higher percentage of African-American students than public schools do.
The Center Square confirmed that 26.1 percent of charter school students in North Carolina are African-American, and African-American students make up 25.1 percent of the public school population.
More African-American students also benefited from the state’s Opportunity Scholarship for private school education when compared to the number of African-American public school students.
A recent poll also found that 89 percent of African-American Democratic voters nationwide support expanding school choice.
Based on a sample of 1,721 likely voters in the 2020 election and an oversample of 1,227 likely Democratic voters, a Benenson Strategy Group conducted poll concluded that 81 percent of Democratic primary voters, regardless of race, also support school choice.
Mangrum could not be reached for comment.
Ballard also lashed out at critics who say that state lawmakers should do more to level the playing field for poorer schools by “equalizing funding.”
Roughly 95 percent of the North Carolina schools that received either a “D” or “F” grade, based on the state board’s annual evaluation process, were in high poverty neighborhoods, according to the state’s Department of Education report.
Ballard said in order to balance the socioeconomic scale, lawmakers would have to divert money from wealthier schools.
“Because North Carolina already provides higher per-pupil funding to high-poverty nonwhite school districts ($9,577 per student) than to low-poverty white school districts ($8,669 per student),” Ballard said in a statement.