Tea party groups have succeeded in reversing nationally praised school integration policies in Raleigh, North Carolina, decrying the longstanding system as one of social engineering.
The Washington Post reports that tea party pressure has motivated Wake County School District's largely Republican school board to abolish policies the newspaper describes as "one of the nation's most celebrated integration efforts."
"Say no to the social engineers!" was one of their slogans.
The Post hails the existing system as a "rarity," noting that some of the county's "best, most diverse schools are in the poorest sections of this capital city. And its suburban schools, rather than being exclusive enclaves, include children whose parents cannot afford a house in the neighborhood."
The school board is instead considering a system in which poor children are relegated to low-income neighborhood schools, moving away from its current policies where most schools have students from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
Critics have sharply denounced the new plans as a form of segregation, noting that poorer children are often minorities and arguing that the new tea party-backed ideas will lead to a new cycle of poverty for the less fortunate.
Chief among them is the NAACP, which has slammed the effort as discriminatory and a new type of racial segregation, and has filed a civil rights complaint in an effort to protect hundreds of students from having to transfer out of their schools.
"So far, all the chatter we heard from tea partyers has not manifested in actually putting in place retrograde policies," NAACP president Ben Jealous told the Post. "But this is one place where they have literally attempted to turn back the clock."
Proponents of the new policies note that they do not violate the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 case, "Brown v. Board of Education," which banned racial segregation, arguing that the proposed new policies are based on non-racial factors.
The move reflects the tea party's first successes at influencing school board policies in a way that will inevitably affect the sociocultural makeup of schools.