White Flight Worries Durham School Leaders

Why are they worried? ‘Diversity’ increases as white students hit the road.

The number of white students in Durham Public Schools has dwindled to less than 20 percent, and school system leaders say it is a concern.

The percentage of white, non-Hispanic students in the county’s non-charter public schools has dropped from 30.8 percent in 2001-2002 to 19.3 percent this school year. The number of white students has also declined in recent years.

The drop has come with a corresponding decline in the overall percentage of white, non-Hispanic residents in Durham County, from 47.8 percent in 2001 to 42.5 percent in 2011.

“It does bother me that the schools in North Carolina are becoming less racially and economically balanced,” Durham Board of Education Chairwoman Heidi Carter said. “I think schools are the place where people come together (from) all ethnicities and races and backgrounds to learn about one another’s differences and celebrate those differences, and learn about our similarities and to learn to get along and just understand each other. I worry when the schools are no longer those places.”

Carter pointed to the influx of charter schools in the county as the main reason for the decline, and added, “It’s a trickle. Over the past decade, it’s a trickle. It’s not a mass exodus.”

There are nine charter schools in Durham County, and they accounted for 9.8 percent of total enrollment of Durham Public Schools in the 2011-12 school year.

Board of Education Vice-Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown noted that the “graying” or “browning” of America is a national trend, but acknowledged that the school board has its eye on the shrinking percentage of white students.

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