Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Scholar disputes merits of Pasco school rezoning plan

To deal with crowding, the Pasco County School Board is redrawing attendance zones for middle and high schools in the eastern part of the county. As the Times reported last week, one of the upshots of the proposed new boundaries is an increase in the number of low-income students in Dade City schools — particularly Pasco Middle School, which will near Title I status — and a corresponding decrease in the socioeconomic diversity of students in the Wesley Chapel schools.

Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan but liberal-leaning Century Foundation, is one of the nation's leading proponents of economic integration. He spoke with the Times about the implications and possible outcomes of shuffling the students.

Schools' need to cope with crowding, financial constraints and other factors is real, Kahlenberg acknowledged. But simply rezoning children into more economically segregated schools is not the best solution, he said.

"The research is clear that moves that exacerbate concentrations of poverty are bad for kids," Kahlenberg said. Not only that, he continued, but "extra money in high-poverty schools does not adequately address the problem."

He pointed to a recent Century Foundation study of Montgomery County, Md., schools called Housing Policy is School Policy. That study, which relied upon the school system's blind assignment of low-income students, demonstrated that low-income children attending mixed-income schools outperform their peers in schools with high concentrations of poor kids.

"This study was particularly powerful because the families were randomly assigned to public housing units in very different neighborhoods that then translated into very different students," Kahlenberg said. "There were no issues of self-selection."

That means the successful students were not just those of highly motivated parents.

Some Pasco officials have contended that the new attendance boundaries will lead to increased parental involvement, as the low-income students will be attending school closer to their homes.

Nonsense, Kahlenberg said.

"There's no research to back up that hypothesis," he said. "The key driver of parental involvement is the socioeconomic status of the family. Low-income families for a variety of reasons are much less likely to be involved in the PTA or to volunteer in classrooms. To take one example, middle-class parents are four times as likely to be members of the PTA as low-income families."

He cited an example at a Raleigh, N.C., magnet school that sits across the street from a public housing unit that sends children there.

"Almost all the volunteers in the school were the middle-class parents who live farther away," he said. "It's not so much distance that is driving low levels of participation among low-income parents. It's if you are working two or three jobs, you may not be able to volunteer in the classroom, or your job might not offer you the flexibility to get off in the middle of the day."

Some people will say that low-income kids will feel more comfortable if they are around other low-income kids, he observed. But "mountains of evidence" show that economic segregation is "disastrous" for education.

"Probably the best thing you can do for a low-income student is allow her to attend a middle-income school," Kahlenberg said.

School choice often allows that to occur. But in instances where that's not the case, usually because of uneven growth and crowding, school districts might have to make other conscious choices to maintain economic integration, he said. The mix of people in a school does matter, he argued.

"You want to have peers who are academically engaged and expect to go on to college," he said. "You want to have parents who are volunteering in a school, people who know how to hold school officials accountable when things go wrong. And you want to have high-quality teachers, and the evidence seems to indicate that high-quality teachers flee high-poverty schools."

If neighborhoods were integrated on their own, then action wouldn't be needed, he said.

"But the reality is because our neighborhoods tend to be economically segregated, a plan which assigns students in a compulsory manner to their local schools will result in highly unequal opportunities," he said.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news visit the Gradebook at

Scholar disputes merits of Pasco school rezoning plan 12/11/10 [Last modified: Saturday, December 11, 2010 10:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Watch the trailer for 'Mini Lights,' based on St. Petersburg's frightening urban legend


    Perhaps you've heard of the "mini lights." The tales can vary a bit, but generally, they're said to be nasty little creatures controlled by a witch that once lived near Booker Creek. They come out after dark to "get you."

    A scene from the proof of concept trailer for a mini lights movie.
  2. Democratic ad: Adam Putnam is 'silent' on GOP health bill


    Democrats are trying to attach Adam Putnam to the GOP’s unpopular plans to replace Obamacare.

  3. Competition and uncertainty keep New Port Richey's Steve Miklos hooked on power boat racing


    HOLIDAY — If Steve Miklos could have it his way, every power boat race would take place in rough water. He finds the turbulent conditions calming, an attitude he's developed during a professional power boat racing career that spans hundreds of races dating back to 1991.

    Steve Miklos, the throttle man and owner of the No. 51 Sun Print Racing boat, poses at his shop in Holiday. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Did a Cubs player give Trump the middle finger during a White House visit?


    President Donald Trump welcomed former Rays manager Joe Maddon and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs into the Oval Office. But it was a photo that surfaced later that got much of the attention on …

    President Donald Trump welcomed former Rays manager Joe Maddon and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs into the Oval Office. But it was a photo that surfaced later that got much of the attention on social media.
The photo, taken by Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, purportedly shows outfielder Albert Almora Jr. flipping a bird while standing just feet from Trump as the other players were gathered around his desk. [Gordon Wittenmyer via Twitter]
  5. Florida's death row population lower today than it was in 2005


    The last person executed in Florida was Oscar Ray Bolin on Jan. 7, 2016, making him the 92nd person to be executed since Florida resumed capital punishment in 1979. The last condemned inmate to join death row , convicted double-murderer Craig Wall of Pinellas County, arrived on June 6, 2016.

    The execution chamber at Florida State Prison