In the meantime, one aspect of the proposed maps seems indefensible, no matter how you feel about the larger project. Coralville Central is a school with an free and reduced-cost lunch (FRL) rate of 42% -- just a few points above the district average and easily in compliance with the diversity goals. Yet the latest proposed map would take 80% of its kids and move them to different schools, bringing in kids from other schools to fill those seats. What possible logic could drive that proposal?
I’m guessing that it’s because the diversity policy requires attendance zones to be contiguous and prohibits “islands.” The most direct way to lessen the FRL imbalance on the west side would be to trade students between Lincoln (4% FRL) and Kirkwood (74% FRL). But it’s difficult or impossible to connect any part of Lincoln to the Kirkwood zone, so the plan uses Coralville Central as a kind of middleman. If that’s the rationale, it’s a bad one. Contiguity isn’t important enough to justify enormous changes to the attendance zone of a school that could otherwise simply be left alone.
I have a lot of doubts about moving kids from Kirkwood to Lincoln, but at least I can understand the logic. Major changes to the Coralville Central zone make no sense at all.
UPDATE:Here’s a counterargument: Many of the families who are currently bused to Coralville Central from the neighborhoods north of Route 80 are within two miles of Kirkwood, and thus would no longer qualify for a bus. So the proposed map would enable the district to discontinue those buses. Much of that cost, however, wouldn’t be saved, but shifted. Putting those Coralville Central kids into Kirkwood would then mean that a roughly equal number of Kirkwood kids would have to move out
So the proposed map means that fewer kids from relatively well-off families are taking the bus to school and more kids from low-income families are, for the sake of bringing down FRL disparities. Whether that’s a good idea is debatable, but at least it has a rationale.
Either way, the result is enormous, all-at-once changes to current attendance zones. Whether the larger community supports that kind of “start-from-scratch” approach to boundaries is a question that the district does not seem eager to ask. At all of the community redistricting meetings, the district has instructed people not to question whether the diversity goals are a good policy, but just to discuss how to meet the goals. Many people at the meetings have been understandably resistant to this kind of paternalistic “engagement.” The district has demonstrated no interest in wanting to know what the public thinks about the most central question raised by the maps: whether the cost of meeting the diversity goals outweighs the benefits. Why?