Lawmaker wants advisory committees for all school boundary studies

Lawmaker wants advisory committees for all school boundary studies

Goal is to promote transparency and equity, legislation says

| Published:
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A Montgomery County lawmaker has proposed requiring school districts across the state to establish a “community advisory committee” for all boundary studies.

Del. Lily Qi, a North Potomac Democrat, sponsored the bill, which would mandate a commission of at least 11 people for every boundary study by a public school system in Maryland. The goal, the bill says, is to “ensure transparency and equity in input and decision making during the school redistricting process.”

The bill would be meaningful in Montgomery County, where the school system is in the middle of countywide boundary study. A consultant is expected to give the school a preliminary report this month.

Each community advisory committee outlined in Qi’s bill would have six parents of students enrolled in the county’s public school system, four teachers and one member of the local school board.

The bill says committee members would not be paid, but could get reimbursement for travel. It does not say how many times the committee would meet for each boundary study and does not specify whether participants would be required to live in an area affected by the boundary study.

Qi and the bill’s cosponsor, Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo, both voiced frustration with the Montgomery County school board about its handling of a recent upcounty boundary study that reassigned approximately 2,000 students to new schools.

At a joint meeting of the delegation and school board in November, Fraser-Hidalgo said the changes could result in longer bus rides for students, in part because there aren’t as many transit options upcounty, and would “rip kids away” from their friends.

“I understand that this is a complicated issue. I just want you to understand the folks in our district are reaching out to us and hounding us on this issue and I want to make sure the school board and everyone else is fully cognizant of all the ramifications,” Fraser-Hidalgo said at the meeting.

MCPS currently has five ongoing boundary studies, including the countywide boundary analysis.

There have been 131 boundary changes since the mid-1980s, according to MCPS.

When a boundary study is authorized by the school board, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith is tasked with developing several redistricting options, which are then released for public feedback.

The school board is then required to hold community meetings and public hearings to solicit feedback before taking a final vote on boundary changes, according to school district policy.

A public hearing on Qi’s bill is scheduled for 1 p.m. March 4 in Annapolis.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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