The following statement regarding the Howard County Public School System’s redistricting process was released today from the Howard County Senate Delegation:
Joint Statement from Howard County Senators on the HCPSS School Boundary Review Process
October 15, 2019
This is a joint statement from Senators Clarence Lam, Guy Guzzone, and Katie Fry Hester, and it is not an endorsement of any specific boundary proposal.
As Howard County State Senators, we have an ongoing interest in the Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) school boundary review process (also known as “school redistricting”). While we as state legislators have no role in the determination of the new boundaries, we have been monitoring the progress of HCPSS in this process because a significant amount of annual capital funding for school construction and renovation originates from the state’s budget and because we recognize the importance of addressing the current school enrollment and capacity issues.
During the 2019 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed HB1409 to enable the Howard County Council to implement increases to the school facilities surcharge (also known as impact fees) as part of a comprehensive consideration of school and housing needs. Furthermore, the General Assembly leadership has indicated an intent to prioritize additional capital funding for public school systems with their plan to introduce HB1 and SB1 in the 2020 session, which will allow for hundreds of millions of additional school construction dollars statewide. However, these measures must work in conjunction with school redistricting efforts by the Board of Education.
The Howard County Delegation convened a special work session on January 12, 2019 in part to seek information from HCPSS regarding the school redistricting process. Based on that meeting, it remains our firm belief that:
• There are insufficient public funds at the state and local levels to rely exclusively on new school construction to alleviate current overcrowding.
• School redistricting is the most immediate and efficient method of addressing overcrowded schools and can no longer be delayed because of worsening overcapacity at certain schools and the underutilization of space in other schools within HCPSS.
• The final determination of school boundaries lies solely with the Howard County Board of Education (Maryland Code, Education Article §4-109 (c)’), and any feedback on redistricting is encouraged to be submitted directly to them.
• Members of the Delegation retain the legal authority to sponsor legislation that can compel the Board to initiate the school boundary review process (e.g. in order to reduce overcrowding and ensure school capacity is within optimal target utilization).
We would like to commend the Board of Education for voting unanimously after the January 2019 work session to initiate the school redistricting process in accordance with HCPSS Policy 6010, which calls for the following factors to be taken into account in the boundary review process:
• Facility utilization including the efficient use of available space, projected enrollment, fiscal responsibility, anticipated transportation time and distance, and maintaining an equitable distribution of regional programs located throughout the county.
• Community stability including feeds that encourage keeping students together (avoiding feeds of less than 15%), the contiguousness of communities and neighborhoods, and the frequency with which any one student is reassigned.
• Demographic characteristics of the student population including racial/ethnic and socioeconomic composition (as measured by federal FARMS program data), academic performance as measured by standardized testing, level of enrollment in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs, and the number of students moved while taking into account the outcomes of all of the factors above.
Although this joint statement is not an endorsement of any specific boundary proposal, we are pleased that HCPSS Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano and the Board of Education have continued to work in good faith to comprehensively address school system boundaries consistent with HCPSS Policy 6010. We applaud the Board’s effort and willingness to increase the number of scheduled public hearings in order to allow for ample opportunity for community participation, and we urge the Board of Education to continue proceeding in a thoughtful and deliberative manner in the redistricting process.
We would like to remind community members that the boundary review process is still underway, and members of the Board of Education can amend or change any proposal based in part on testimony received from the public. We encourage all interested community members to continue to make their voices heard directly to the Board of Education in a respectful and civil manner, with written testimony being accepted by the Board through 4:30pm on November 19, 2019. (The HPCSS School Boundary Review webpage has comprehensive information on redistricting, including summaries, timelines, details and other tools available to the public.) The Board has several upcoming work sessions for deliberations on proposed changes that are open to the public before a final Board vote is scheduled for November 21, 2019.
In keeping with the Board of Education’s timeline, we look forward to seeing a final plan for school redistricting approved by the Board on November 21st.
Here are images that were released on social media:
I did not see a social media post from Senator Guy Guzzone as of releasing this blog post.
The big thing that caught my attention was the bullet “Members of the Delegation retain the legal authority to sponsor legislation that can compel the Board to initiate the school boundary review process“. This very much read (to me) like “do something relating to redistricting or we will sponsor legislation and make you to do something”. This is how I read that bullet.
Another important statement in the release is “We encourage all interested community members to continue to make their voices heard directly to the Board of Education in a respectful and civil manner, with written testimony being accepted by the Board through 4:30pm on November 19, 2019.” I could not agree more with this…be sure to be respectful and civil…but continue to lend your voice to this discussion between now and the 19th of November.