Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In The Neighborhood

On the one hand, I would think this would be a no-brainer. The Clarke County School District is considering revisions to its elementary and middle school attendance zones, slated to become effective in the 2009-2010 school year. From an economic perspective, a change to “neighborhood” attendance zones is desperately needed, as the District spent 74.39% per pupil above the state average for transportation in FY 2007 ($733.08 per pupil locally versus $420.38 statewide) . It is unfortunate that it took a spike in fuel prices to get us to this point, but we taxpayers will take what we can get.

On the other hand, though, I recognize that the issue of school attendance zones has been problematic for a long time for reasons that have nothing to do with economics. If the District assigns students to the schools in their local neighborhoods, it runs into the kind of “desegregation” problems that have prompted lawsuits in the past; if it transports students to schools in other neighborhoods to balance out racial factors, it again runs into problems regarding the race of who is getting bused.

Thus, beginning in about 1990, the District has been through a gamut of attendance zone strategies (see proximity zones, pocket bussing, controlled choice, school choice, etc.). The latest version of the District’s attendance zone policy utilizes parental choice among the various schools in one of four geographical attendance zones coupled with the capacity of individual schools within that zone. The result may be satisfactory insofar as parental preferences and legal requirements are concerned, but it also results in a complicated and expensive bussing plan.

Of course, given the skewed demographics of the CCSD student population (55% black, 21% white, 18% Hispanic, 3% multiracial, and 2% Asian for the 2006-2007 school year), any solution will probably be open to charges of racial inequality.

Regardless, those so inclined can click here for more information and PDF maps of the proposed attendance zones and here for the “rezoning presentation.”

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