MCPS Considers Possible Redistricting

Maddi Kales and Emma Skoglund

Students and parents are pushing MCPS to redistrict school boundaries to increase diversity and close the achievement gap that persists in schools throughout Montgomery County.

Although the county is considered diverse with 32 percent of the residents Latino, 28 percent white, 21 percent African American and 14 percent Asian, MCPS schools do not reflect this same diversity.

Concerned citizens of the county argue that the way schools are currently arranged allows for segregation within MCPS. Some schools are primarily white and usually in high income neighborhoods such as Walt Whitman High School (HS) in Bethesda and Winston Churchill HS in Potomac, among others. While other schools primarily consist of minorities and have higher poverty rates, known as the Downcounty Consortium (DCC) schools. The DCC high schools include Blair HS, Einstein HS, Kennedy HS, Northwood HS and Wheaton HS.

The idea to redistrict schools was proposed by the 41st Student Member of Board, Ananya Tadikonda. The issue of redistricting was brought to the Board of Education (BOE) during the 2018 summer and was officially added to their agenda Sept. 13, 2018. MCPS hired an external consultant to do a districtwide school boundary study Jan. 8. The results are expected by the spring of 2020. This will give MCPS more information about how the schools are districted now and what changes should be made.

One of MCPS’ long term goals has been to close the achievement gap, the imbalance in academic performance between groups of students, which generally negatively affects minority students. MCPS officials recently began considering redistricting after parents and students argued that schools were being separated by race and socioeconomic status. Not only did schools seem to be segregated, but in schools primarily consisting of minority students like the DCC schools, there were higher dropout rates, lower graduation rates and lower GPAs.

¨So what you have now is students like me, who are in these confined areas with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged and minority students who are not getting the same quality of education,”  Montgomery County Students for Change leader Michael Solomon said in an American University radio station interview April 2.

Another argument raised by parents and students is that some schools are unnecessarily overcrowded. Some schools like Walter Johnson HS are at 100 percent capacity while schools like Einstein HS are only 75 percent full. The education of students in overcrowded schools tend to suffer with larger classes and higher teacher to student ratios. They argue that if redistricting is to be put into place, students would be more evenly distributed.

“It lays the groundwork for a more equitable future for our students,” former BOE member Jill Ortman-Fouse  said in a Sept. 25 Washington Post article.

RHS students have also started getting involved in advocating for MCPS to change school boundaries.

“I believe that everyone, no matter their ethnicity or economic status, should have the proper access to obtaining a good education,” sophomore and member of the Rockville for Change club, which advocates for new school boundaries, Gabby Diaz said. “The current boundaries do not provide equitable education for students.”

However, another point of contention that has been raised is that people work hard to pay for their homes to live in certain communities, so that their kids could attend a certain school.

“I think redistricting hasn’t occurred yet because the communities that are more affluent believe that redistricting could decrease opportunities for their children,” sophomore Sean Davis said.

Currently, there are no solid plans going forward; however, the boundaries study results will provide a deeper look into the current boundaries. In the meantime, parents and students continue to either advocate for redistricting or oppose it.