A volunteer committee has refined an equity policy for the Lawrence school board to consider soon.
All children in the Lawrence school district deserve an education of equal quality -- a belief that a group of educators and parent volunteers recommend as policy.
No equity policy exists for the district. The school board asked the district Equity Council in September to recommend one this month.
An ad hoc committee returned a definition and a list of goals to the Equity Council this week. The council will refine the report and present it to the school board as early as Jan. 23.
The report identifies two broad goals: creating schools that "reflect an education of equal quality," and equitably distributing resources, including facilities, technology, media, library resources, special education support and teaching staff.
It also outlines specific actions that administrators and the school board should follow to ensure the goals.
Council members discussed three challenges to making equity a reality:
- Outside contributions disrupt funding formulas.
Take computers for example, Assistant Supt. Bob Taylor told the council. The district distributes computers to schools based on a formula. The numbers "foul-up," he said, when businesses and parent-teacher groups chip in for more equipment at certain schools.
"You do build inequities when you have outsiders providing resources," he said.
Taylor has asked the Area Council of PTAs and PTOs for the past six years to consider pooling all donations in a common fund rather than into individual schools. The suggestion received snickers, smirks and protests, he said.
A proposal to pool a portion of total contributions, perhaps one-third, met with less resistance. The idea is beyond the policy control of the school board or the administration, he said.
- Federal courts focus on minority enrollment only when a lawsuit questions a district's approach to equal education.
The school board gave the council a draft policy that administrators based on court cases in other states.
Val Howland, head of the ad hoc committee, said the draft was more appropriately titled a minority enrollment policy, not an equity policy.
It triggers boundary changes and transfer approval when minority populations rise above 20 percent of the district average.
The council will recommend that the board adopt both the council's equity policy and the administration's minority enrollment policy in some form.
- Passing policies won't work alone.
Committee member Willie Amison was skeptical that a policy would lead to significant change.
"The bottom line," he said, "should be what are you going to do to change the achievement level of 'X', 'Y' and 'A' and 'B' schools."