The opponents of busing appealed that decision, asking the entire Fourth Circuit to hear the case rather than a small panel of judges. The eleven Fourth District judges ruled 7-4 in September of 2001 to uphold the 1999 ruling made by Judge Potter that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools were unitary and that race could not be used in student assignments. The judges did overturn Potter’s ruling that race could not be a factor in any school operation, which meant that programs serving impoverished black students wouldn’t be eliminated. Their decision, however, meant that school districts in the Fourth District were no longer required to preserve racially integrated schools. The black plaintiffs appealed this decision, but the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case. This decision ended busing for racial balance in Charlotte.
The community members who fought to hammer out a busing compromise and create a sense of unity in the 1970s felt their hard work had been wiped out. There seemed to be little they could do except stand by and watch the Charlotte schools resegregate, and they did so almost immediately. The school board instituted a new plan for the 2002-03 school year which assigned students to schools based on where they lived, and also gave parents the choice to send their children to magnet schools around the district.
Along with reinstating de facto racial segregation, this plan led to economic segregation in the district's schools. Student populations were now drawn from the neighborhoods surrounding the schools, and as a result, schools located in high-poverty areas had student bodies who lived in poverty. After this plan went into place, the number of high-poverty elementary and middle schools, in which over 75 percent of students qualify for reduced or free lunch, rose from 18 to 29. By 2004, the number of high-poverty schools had climbed to 50. Education experts worried that students in these high-poverty schools weren’t receiving an equal education. The schools were often located in older inner-city facilities, had high teacher turnover rates, and lacked the middle- and upper-class parents who brought resources and influence to suburban schools.