Back in January, we noted the efforts by the newly elected, Republican-majority school board in Wake County, North Carolina, to undo a celebrated integration policy in favor of "neighborhood schools," which would likely concentrate low-income students in environments less likely to produce success.
The "neighborhood schools" plan wasn't scheduled to go into effect until the 2012-2013 school year, so its opponents believed they had one more chance to stop it: at the voting booth. Many members of the nine-person school board, including Republican board chairman Ken Margiotta, were up for re-election in yesterday's election.
According to an Institute for Southern Studies analysis of the most recent campaign report filings, Pope and his wife, Katherine, donated $4,000 each -- the maximum allowed by law -- to three GOP candidates who want to end Wake's diversity policy: current school board chair Ron Margiotta, and new candidates Heather Losurdo and Donna Williams.
Besides being opponents of the school system's diversity policy, Margiotta and Losurdo have come under fire for making racially-charged remarks -- Margiotta for referring to pro-diversity protesters as "animals," and Losurdo for using the acronym "LMAO" for "laughing my a-- off" in response to a Facebook posting by her husband that said, "The skunk has replaced the Eagle as the new symbol of the American Presidency. It is half black, half white, and everything it does stinks!"
Democrats, for the most part, dodged the Pope money train and ran away with last night's races. Chairman Margiotta was ousted by his Democratic challenger, and three other Democrats also coasted to wins.
[Democratic incumbent Kevin] Hill leads Losurdo with 49.7 percent of the votes but doesn't have the necessary 50 percent needed to secure a win. [Heather] Losurdo, who received 39.8 percent of the vote, is the only chance now that the current majority has to remain in control of the board. She said she will ask for a run-off.
The NAACP, which has been very vocal in the area opposing the "neighborhood schools" strategy, hailed the results as "a major step forward." That said, none of the Democrats who won (or Kevin Hill) have committed to voting down the policy. It remains to be seen whether the results hailed by the NAACP will amount to real change.