The process that was recently used to develop school districts in Howard County is inherently inequitable and unfair. Those who have the resources, time, and connections to organize a response to those plans are able to ensure that their neighborhoods are not adversely affected while those without resources cannot do the same.
In contrast, using quantitative statistical measures would enable development of optimal plans for the county in general. The discussion herein demonstrates that it is possible to simultaneously balance for capacity utilization, income, and distance, through computer optimization.
This plan implemented the mathematical modeling methodology described in the scientific literature previously prepared for Howard County Schools (AI Magazine, 2007, Volume 28).
If any redistricting reform is proposed here are some areas for improvement:
- First, the data that were provided for development and evaluation of plans were flawed.
- Second, the process was flawed. The Attendance Area Committee (AAC) did not have diverse membership and could not reflect on issues of importance to the entire community.
- Third, the process to obtain input from members of the community was flawed and caused the input to be substantially biased.
- Fourth, the initial plan outlined in the Feasibility Study increased segregation by income and race, in some cases, and underestimated the degree of segregation that was being proposed through the use of biased FARM data.
Continuing with this campaign's goal of advocating for equity in county policies, here, we focus on high school district segregation by race and income.
Certain school districts have much higher concentrations of low-income students than neighboring school districts. Given the strong correlation between race and income, those districts are also segregated by race and ethnicity.
The resulting distribution of students on Free and Reduced Meals (FARM) for five different redistricting plans are compared.
We need to ensure stronger adequate public facilities ordinance standards (APFO) are adopted and better moderate and low income housing policies are implemented such that the county begins rolling back what the current standards have begun to create - two Howard Counties. One where lower income families live and another where high income families live.
We need to consider the impacts of housing projects on potential economic integration before we approve these projects, and we cannot allow our school districts to be divided by income.
FARM profiles among the data-set provided by MPIA 2018-004, the AAC Draft report released Aug. 8, 2017, and the FARM number from the HCPSS School System Profile are compared. The results summarized from the provided MPIA dataset were nearly 5 percentage points lower than those for the 2017 system-wide profile. Furthermore, the percentage FARM students across the district summarized as a weighted mean from the AAC Draft FARM Report (23.6%) was even higher than the school-system profile.
The Howard County Public School System Board of Education has proposed school attendance area adjustments (redistricting) to take effect in the 2018-2019 school year.
The school attendance area standards are set by Board Policy 6010. Section IV.3 of the standards addresses the preservation of diversity by different measures of the sending and receiving schools.
One measure is "The socioeconomic composition of the school population as measured by participation in the federal [free and reduced meals] FARMS program."
While the proposed redistricting plan does not increase or decrease the standard deviation in percentage FARM across schools, and only affects a few schools. A granular look suggests that the proposed redistricting will not achieve the stated goal of improving economic integration.