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An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

New Report Shows Few Changes In Racial Makeup Of Schools

Gwendolyn Glenn

The latest numbers on the racial breakdown of students attending Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools show little change since last year, with no major shifts at individual schools.

Race was not considered a factor when CMS officials developed the student assignment plan to make schools more diverse. By federal law, the school system can’t consider it. Instead, the economic status of students was the main driving force. Still, some racial shifts were expected since schools with mainly low-income students usually have mostly students of color. And high-income schools have majority white enrollments.

This year’s CMS diversity report shows that even with the dozens of boundary changes to make schools more economically diverse, little changed in terms of the racial makeup of the schools.

“We were not expecting that the boundary changes were going to lead to dramatic changes and that is what these numbers are showing,” said school board member Elyse Daschew. “The school pairings did show some significant changes.”

Dashew is referring to the pairing of Billingsville and Cotswold elementary schools, Nathaniel Alexander and Morehead Stem, and Dilworth and Sedgefield elementary schools.

The biggest difference was in white student enrollment. Cotswold went from 427 white students to 205 and Billingsville from six white students to 161. Another big change occurred at Sedgefield, a predominately black school last year. It now has a majority white enrollment. Economically, Sedgefield went from a school of mainly low-income students to 66 percent high-income students.

School officials say their efforts to make schools more diverse is a complicated and evolving process.

“It is an agonizing slow process. For many people in our community looking for change, it is a frustratingly slow pace and I feel that frustration,” Dashew said.

In terms of the overall racial makeup, the percentage of black and white students went down slightly. Blacks make up 37.5 percent of CMS students and whites 27.6 percent. Hispanics went up to nearly 25 percent, while Asians stayed about the same at 6.9 percent.