Howard County has a chance to pro­mote school eq­uity and ex­cel­lence

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE -

Howard County was built on a vi­sion of in­clu­sion, eq­uity and ex­cel­lence. But that vi­sion has not been fulfilled. There is lack of eq­uity in our pub­lic school sys­tem that has grown, and it has now be­come one of the most press­ing con­cerns of our time (“Howard re­dis­trict­ing: Su­per­in­ten­dent pro­poses mov­ing 7,300 stu­dents to ad­dress over­crowd­ing, poverty in­equities,” Aug. 22). Sim­ply put, our schools are seg­re­gated. We­must open our eyes to that fact. And in a county-wide school sys­tem in one of the most re­source-rich com­mu­ni­ties in the nation, they must not be — and don’t have to be.

The so­cio-eco­nomic break­down of pupils in our schools is grossly un­even, as mea­sured by those re­ceiv­ing free and re­duced meals (the so-called FARM per­cent­age). Some schools have FARM rates as high 68%, when the over­all county av­er­age is about 25%. With high con­cen­tra­tions of limited fam­ily in­comes, ed­u­ca­tion out­comes suf­fer. Stu­dents are left be­hind. And we are at risk of le­gal chal­lenges that might force a so­lu­tion on us. Su­per­in­ten­dent Michael Mar­ti­rano has pro­posed a re­dis­trict­ing plan that makes huge progress to­ward two goals: 1. Re­duc­ing crowd­ing at many schools and 2. Build­ing eq­uity through a more fair dis­tri­bu­tion of FARM re­cip­i­ents.

The plan, put to­gether by ex­perts look­ing out for the en­tire com­mu­nity, de­serves our full sup­port. It’s not sur­pris­ing that that hasn’t hap­pened im­me­di­ately. Some par­ents and stu­dents are wor­ried that they may have to change schools, and change is not easy. But if you are a con­cerned par­ent — one who val­ues ed­u­ca­tion and wants to give your child the best op­por­tu­nity — my mes­sage is this: You’ve done it. You are rais­ing your child in Howard County, one of the top sys­tems in the nation. Your child has car­ing par­ents and a wealth of op­por­tu­ni­ties. They’ll get good marks on tests. They’ll have car­ing ed­u­ca­tors. They’ll make new friends all the time. They are go­ing to do great. This will hap­pen at any school in our county. Even if it takes a lit­tle longer to get there.

The re­dis­trict­ing plan won’t erode any of this. But what this plan will do is pro­vide an equiv­a­lent op­por­tu­nity to thou­sands of chil­dren in Howard County. It will bring us one step closer to our orig­i­nal dream. You, and all of us, can have it all: We can have ex­cel­lence for your child. And we can have ex­cel­lence for all chil­dren. It’s not an ei­ther/or choice. When you sup­port this plan, you sup­port both.

David Nitkin, Co­lum­bia

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