Address inequalities in schools

By From page A6 | April 11, 2013

As a parent of two children who were educated in the Davis school district, I am concerned about the information that was presented to the school board regarding the Montessori and neighborhood programs at Birch Lane. Two people, a parent and a teacher, spoke before the board to point out a disparity in the demographics between the two programs.

There is a higher percentage of special-needs children in the neighborhood program versus the Montessori program. There are three times the number of special education students in the neighborhood program versus Montessori, three times the number of ethnic students, and three times the number of low-income students. It seems, in fact, that higher needs learners are poorly represented in the Montessori program.

Teacher Michael Monticello pointed out that this was a disservice to the children at the school. I think he is right. But now he is being characterized as a troublemaker who has attacked the teachers and the program. He has been labeled as a bigot and a racist for stating that a predominantly white student population in a program is de facto segregation, that separate is not equal.

Is this attack an attempt to draw attention away from the troubling numbers? Shouldn’t we be concerned that the numbers are not the same? Does the Montessori program have difficulty recruiting children of color, English language learners, the difficult learners? Are the students in this program “cherry picked” for placement? Surely, entry is open to all.

Every program should be able to accommodate higher-needs children as well as mainstream children. If this is an elitist program does it have a place in the Davis public schools? What are the statistics for other special programs in the district? Do all of the children in the district, regardless of their situation, have equal access to these programs?

To “shoot the messenger” as some have been doing is a poor substitute for taking action to correct an inequity. An area of great concern regarding the education of the children in our district has been pointed out to the community. We should act together to identify the scope of the problem and then correct it, not assault the people who point out the facts. I would like to praise them.

Annie Rosenthal

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