Howard County has a chance to promote school equity and excellence
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