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School committee should take step further

RE “For Boston’s pupils, a lost opportunity” (Op-ed, Feb. 23): Twenty years ago Lawrence Harmon’s book “The Death of An American Jewish Community” demonstrated a nuanced and empirical understanding of the devastating consequences of residential segregation along racial lines. Harmon seems to have forsaken those lessons.

One consequence of Boston’s longtime residential segregation is the unequal distribution of quality schools, with the lowest-performing schools unevenly concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods of color. Yet Harmon would restrict Boston’s children to schools closest to home, without regard for quality, in the assignment process.

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This week the External Advisory Committee on School Choice made an important first step toward keeping kids closer to home while still ensuring that each student has an equal chance at a high-performing school when it adopted the so-called home-based A plan. The Boston School Committee should now increase opportunities for equitable access to quality schools by adopting the home-based B plan, without a walk zone preference. This would offer each student a greater number of schools and would equalize opportunity for access even for students who live farther from the best schools.

Like Harmon, I too would like Boston to join the ranks of “normal” cities and towns — those where a child’s address does not determine the quality of his or her school. Anything less is a lost opportunity indeed for Boston’s children.

Sara Barcan


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