We hear all the time about elections having consequences. We saw a lot of that last night, and it is a fairly simple principle. In fact, it's one which Republicans understood a little too well after last year's midterms, resulting in what we now know as the Great Republican Overreach of 2011™. It's worth revisiting in the context of one school board election result from last night.
Backed by Tea Party financier Art Pope, the Republican school board chairman in Wake County, North Carolina, has been pushing a nouveau-segregationist "neighborhood schools" plan. Last night, with incumbent Kevin Hill's victory over his LMAO-at-the-skunk-who's-Obama Republican challenger, Democrats now (and for the next four years) hold the majority on the board. On its face, this would seem to spell the end for the idea of resegregating the county's schools.
The runoff election between Mr. Hill and his challenger last night was supposed to be the tipping point, the last chance for voters to stop the "neighborhood schools" plan before it became reality in the 2012-13 school year. The local NAACP exulted in the four Democratic school board wins in October, and they were likewise happy with last night's results.
Except, here's the thing: Mr. Hill (and his fellow Democrats) aren't saying that they'll reverse what the Republicans did:
Hill said Tuesday night that although he voted against the assignment plan, he has no intention of returning to the district's old way of assigning students.
He said he likes the new plan and thinks it can work with some tweaks. He wants to ensure classroom seats in high-performing schools are reserved for low-performing students.
Now, keep in mind: the Wake County school system has been a national model for school integration. The district is not particularly diverse along racial lines, but its schools have reflected socio-economic diversity for a long time now. The Republican "neighborhood schools" plan aimed to completely undo that progress, concentrating poorer students in inevitably poorer schools. And Mr. Hill thinks that plan needs only a few tweaks? Indeed. From WRAL:
Hill reiterated his desire to revise the plan to make sure enough seats are set aside in high-performing schools for students from low-performing areas.
How taking the extreme Separate but Unequal, 2.0 and "tweaking" it into a slightly more palatable 3.0 serves the interests of voters in Wake County, only those voters can answer. Yes, Democrats stood up to 2.0, but they were hemming and hawing on replacing it before they won the majority. That may have helped them get elected.
But the consequences of their election appear to be scrapping what was working, and then diluting the Republican plan replacing it. How much, then, does last night's victory really matter?