Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Preserving existing schools is perfectly compatible with magnet schools

I’m still perplexed by school board candidate Jason Lewis’s post that I discussed here. In the post, Lewis argued that families who transferred out of SINA schools did not “really support neighborhood schools,” and strongly implied that people who are upset about the possible closure of Hoover School, but who did not protest the SINA transfer policy, were trying to “pick and choose” when to support neighborhood schools.

Lewis was even more adamant in discussions on Facebook about the post, writing to one questioner:
What you missed in my blog post is this: transferring out of your neighborhood school for any reason is NOT supporting your neighborhood school.
Lewis has (very reasonably) been outspoken about the very high concentration of students from low-income families – as measured by free and reduced-price lunch (FRL) rates – in some schools, and in favor (very reasonably) of trying magnet schools as one way to help bring those numbers down. But if he wants magnet schools to work, why would he say that people who voluntarily transfer out of their designated attendance area “for any reason” are “NOT supporting [their] neighborhood school”? That’s not much of a recruiting technique.

It’s one thing to argue (as Lewis later did) that the district shouldn’t have funded the buses for SINA transfers. But why insist that voluntary transfers of any kind are inconsistent with supporting neighborhood schools? Even more confusingly, Lewis says that he supports the right of families to transfer out of SINA schools – “Unequivocally and without reserve.” Why? Doesn’t it substantially undermine efforts to reach the diversity goals? Didn’t it cause the very loss of enrollment that he’s upset about? He supports it, but he wanted the Hoover people to protest it? I’m lost.

I know a lot of people who are upset about the Hoover closure and about the possibility of closures in general. None of them, as far as I know, are against the idea of magnet schools as a possible way to bring down FRL disparities. None of them, as far as I know, think that boundaries should never be redrawn, or that we shouldn’t address FRL disparities among schools. What they want is for the district not to close and tear down an existing school without a compelling reason. I’m just not understanding why that triggers the response from Lewis that it does.

Cross-posted at the Iowa City Patch. Comments welcome on either site.


pooter said...

I agree, I am equally confused about his position(s). A lot of candidates are talking about closures, post-Hoover decision; I think closing Hoover is a bad decision with scant (if any) rationale. Lewis seems to conflate SINA and general school closings. A lot of political rhetoric in this race.

Chris said...

Pooter -- thanks for the comment. I agree. None of the candidates' comments provide any actual rationale for the Hoover closure.

Chris said...

Lewis ended up responding to the North Corridor Parents' survey after all -- his comments on Hoover are in the update at the bottom of this post. It's interesting to compare it with his response(s) here.

Mandy said...

@KD, I was confused about the same statement that Brian Kirschling made. How would bad policy of any type ever be changed if it wasn't modified or overturned? I found that very bothersome. As far as Jason Lewis and his statements, I have felt that he writes all of these long flowery things that basically say nothing. "Great things happening in xyz school" what great things? How could they be applied district wide? "How do you build community? Engage with the community." When talking about closing Hoover, many people have said that when the transfer students leave poor little old Hoover will be left sitting half empty. They forget to mention that whether Hoover is open or closed, boundaries are going to be redrawn so couldn't Hoover be utilized by kids in the redrawn attendance area? There is also no mention of the fact that although Longfellow has fewer transfers, part of the Longfellow attendence area is MILES away.
Since the vote to close Hoover, I have heard and read many articles about "New Urbanism" even in Iowa and how people are looking at walkability when looking for places to live. from around Hoover, one could walk to pharmacies, grocery stores and some of Iowa Cities largest employers. (ACT and Pearson as well as the medical plaza out there) In fact, the new pedestrian/bike bridge was completed last year to cross I-80. I have also read and listened to several things that have talked about the trend of teens and even young adults not getting their drivers licenses until later because of cost, the time it takes to complete driver's training etc and even if they do have their license, they don't drive because of the expense. BLDD and then those who want to expand CHS and close Hoover often state we need to be looking 20-50 years forward, but they are ignoring the fact that many things may change, in how kids are educated and how people get to and from school.

Chris said...

Mandy -- I agree completely. I posted a comment in response here.