Proposed reform would boost equity, access to nearby schools

I am disappointed that Lawrence Harmon has traded equity for fantasy in his commentary on the student assignment reform process (“For Boston’s pupils, a lost opportunity,” Op-ed, Feb. 23). Harmon writes of parents rallying around their neighborhood schools as if this alone can transform the quality of poor schools. This may work in limited instances, but an examination of existing Boston public schools with high percentages of students living nearby shows that they do not perform better overall than those whose students travel longer distances. In fact, many are among the lowest-performing schools in the city.

What I find most galling is that Harmon puts the word equity in quotes, as if it is not a valid goal for a student assignment system. The plan in place now is inequitable to low-income children and children of color. A neighborhood plan would be much more inequitable and would only get worse over time as families of means move to zones with good schools while those without are pushed out.

The so-called home-based A plan that the advisory committee has proposed would allow more students to attend nearby schools while providing improved equity. If the Boston Public Schools deliver on the promise to improve quality, the number of good school options close to home would increase. We needn’t pit the goals of improving equity and allowing students to attend nearby schools against each other when an alternative that would achieve both goals is on the table.

Josh Weiss