FEI is dissatisfied and frustrated by the decision made by the HCPSS Board of Education on November 21, 2019 to proceed with a disruptive and harmful school attendance area adjustment plan. This plan ignored the overwhelming input from thousands of parents, students, researchers and health experts. Their diverse voices implored the BOE to address overcrowding with minimal student impact and separately improve educational equity using proven strategies.
Throughout this process, FEI has served as a steadfast voice for ALL of Howard County’s children, calling repeatedly for the BOE to “do no harm.” Since the BOE’s vote, FEI has heard from hundreds of Howard County residents whose children will be harmed by this rushed and misguided plan. FEI has been exploring how best to right the injustice inflicted on our County’s children and families. It is not yet clear whether FEI, as an organization, has standing to pursue legal action. However, FEI is committed to supporting communities who have been wrongly redistricted and who would like to pursue legal action. If your polygon or community has been wrongfully redistricted by this plan and is interested in connecting with FEI, please take the following steps:
- Immediately engage your community. Talk with your neighbors and ensure everyone is aware that your schools are being redistricted. Determine whether your community wants to learn more about possible legal options. Collect names and contact information for interested community members.
- Reach out to FEI. Select one lead representative from your community or polygon, and have him or her email FEILegalCommittee@gmail.com no later than Monday, November 25, 2019 at 5 pm. Please include your name and contact information as the lead community representative, your polygon number, community name and your total number of interested community members.
As we reflect on the BOE’s decision, we firmly believe the majority of its members have failed the County’s parents, students and community. We applaud the efforts of BOE members who pleaded for additional time and thoughtful planning to ensure the wellbeing of our County’s students. The plan, originally intended to incorporate BOE and community feedback, has clearly ignored its core guiding principles, including:
- Fiscal responsibility – our County must adhere to a budget, and cost is a clear factor in redistricting, given projected HCPSS budget shortfalls of up to $60 million in 2020. The approved redistricting plan will cost millions of dollars in additional transportation in the first two years alone, coupled with a significant shortage in bus drivers.
- Maintenance of community boundaries and feeds (per Policy 6010 IV.B.2.a and b) – we need to avoid frequent widespread redistricting and provide stability for our students. The approved redistricting plan’s poorly executed and hasty redistricting will mean double moves due to High School 13, and produces even more “microfeeds,” which directly contradicts Policy 6010.
FEI remains committed to identifying and working toward real, long-term solutions to create educational equity, not the superficial approach adopted by the BOE. Equity cannot be achieved by minimally balancing FARM rates. Furthermore, Policy 6010 does not call for the balancing of FARM ratios to be the highest priority of redistricting. Even if it did, the approved redistricting plan is questionable at best in its balancing of FARMs rates. Despite alarming concerns that the foundational FARMs data used in the area adjustment process can swing dramatically month to month by school, the redistricting vote rushed forward. Given this fluctuating data, how can our County accurately measure outcomes? Members of the BOE themselves rightly questioned what “success” will truly look like moving forward. To truly improve equity in our school system, we must rely on proven strategies, such as screening for adverse childhood experiences in early childhood, extended learning opportunities, and diversification and further training of our educators.
As we continue to advocate for all of our County’s students, FEI is also committed to healing our community. Howard County is a national model of integration, diversity and peace. The area adjustment process and the false narratives used to support it have created unrest and extreme division. We must ensure this never happens again. We must unite as a community and commit to creating sustainable and proven solutions that put all of our children’s best interests, mental health and wellbeing first.
HoCo Families for Education Improvement is a registered 501(c)(4) organization run by a dedicated group of parent volunteers. Should you wish to make a donation towards our research and advocacy efforts, visit hoco-fei.org and click on “Donation Info.” Follow our work by visiting our website and “liking” our Facebook page, facebook.com/HoCoFEI.