Equity, Opportunity And School RedistrictingRather than...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 25, 1993

Equity, Opportunity And School Redistricting

Rather than the caustic and inaccurate editorial presented by The Sun on March 30, the Howard County school board deserves praise for setting aside media hype, innuendo and hearsay to concentrate on the factors for redistricting. . . .

The editorial on the school board decision omitted the most pertinent facts stated by school board members Susan Cook and Linda Johnson.

Students in Swansfield who currently walk to Wilde Lake would have to be permanently bused to the western school under the alternative plan rejected by the board. . . .

The staff recommendation approved by the school board will save approximately $30,000 in busing costs annually over the alternative plan. And finally, the school board is investing $17 million in renovating and expanding Wilde Lake.

These members were convinced that targeting additional resources to students at their community school is more appropriate than busing them out of their community. . . . .

Bob Kaufman

Ellicott City

____________

On March 23, the Howard County Board of Education made a decision to redistrict the Beaverbrook, Longfellow, Beech Creek and Hobbits Glen communities to Wilde Lake High School. It appeared at first that a fair decision might be made.

Dana Hanna, was so convincing in his argument to adopt an alternate proposal that would have sent the Dorsey Hall community, along with the above, to Wilde Lake. Sandra French had already made her commitment to that proposal.

The opposition came from Susan Cook and Linda Johnson. . . . The entire two-hour discussion that followed centered around opposition to "bus" students, some of whom are currently walkers, from the Swansfield/Clary's Forest neighborhood to the new Western High School a few miles away.

The argument was that some of these students are low-income and they would be deprived of the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities if they could not walk to school.

How could Ms. Cook and Ms. Johnson presume to speak for a group of people who had not made its opinions known throughout this three-month process? How did they determine that hundreds of families did not want their children to attend a brand-new high school? . . .

Why is it acceptable to send a community with a significant minority and lower socio-economic population to a high school that already has the highest minority population in the county, but it is not acceptable to send a community with a predominantly white, upper-middle class population to that same school? . . .

Finally, I ask board members: Was this entire process, discussion and decision a smokescreen for the real reason they could not adopt either alternative? Were they afraid to move the Dorsey Hall community to Wilde Lake? . . .

Marlanne Hollerbach

Columbia

The writer is president of Longfellow PTA.

____________

The controversy over the Centennial High School redistricting centered around the issue of educational equity. Presumably, everyone supports the idea of equal educational opportunity for all. However, there is disagreement about whether or not the composition of a student body is a factor to be considered in equity.

Dana Hanna, speaking for the Howard County school board, recently rebutted a parent's concern about socioeconomic inequities in the student make-up of the Howard County public schools.

His statement seemed to assert that socioeconomic issues need not be considered as a factor in equal opportunity. . . . There is a well-known correlation between economic disadvantage and educational underachievement. I am a clinical psychologist deeply interested in educational ideas; however, you don't have to be a psychologist to know this.

The correlation is so well-known as to be considered almost axiomatic, well beyond psychological and educational circles. It provides the rationale for such projects as the federal Chapter 1 program, which funds extra teachers for schools having a large number of economically disadvantaged students.

Thus . . . the socioeconomic make-up of a student body will have a significant impact upon the educational atmosphere of a school. There are at least three reasons for this.

First, a large amount of student underachievement places significant demands upon a school's resources. . . .

Second, the peer atmosphere of a school has a significant effect upon a student's education. . . .

Some might argue that peers are even more educationally influential than the curriculum. . . . Finally, parent involvement in education is coming to be increasingly recognized as a necessary component of educational excellence.

On this issue, I again respectfully disagree with Mr. Hanna, who states that economically disadvantaged parents are effective advocates for their children's education. I am sure that they can be, but they are often handicapped in doing so. . . . in ways that most economically advantaged families are not.

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