Your View: School board is missing big opportunity for Jefferson-Houston

Your View: School board is missing big opportunity for Jefferson-Houston

By Ralph Buehler, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
During its redistricting process, the Alexandria City School Board has neglected Jefferson-Houston School — the city’s only non-accredited school and by some measures the third worst school in the entire state.

Currently, 75 percent of Jefferson Houston students receive free or subsidized lunches and 85 percent are minorities. Wealthy parents in the Jefferson-Houston district opt out by administrative or programmatic transfers to other schools, moving away or sending their children to private school. Poorer families do not have these options and are forced by the school board to go to a failing school.

Two school districts bordering Jefferson-Houston — Lyles- Crouch and Matthew Maury elementary schools — have much lower shares of students with free or subsidized lunches (25 percent) and much higher shares of white students (more than 50 percent).

The border between Jefferson Houston and Lyles-Crouch is particularly stunning. The boundary is on King Street, one block from Jefferson-Houston — even though the ability to walk to school is a criterion for redistricting.

The school board should use redistricting to give poor and minority students currently concentrated in Jefferson-Houston — and few or no options to move or go to private school — more chances for a better education; and attract more wealthy parents to send their kids to public school.

Redrawing school boundaries locally and creating more balanced schools by race, ethnicity and income is a powerful tool. For some reason, the school board is not using it.

I think concentrating poor children and minorities in a failing school and depriving them of chances at a good education is not acceptable. In my opinion, the school board has a moral obligation to act.