The Globe reports that Boston Mayor Menino has weighed in on the long running debate on the size of the zones in which school choice should operate: Menino vows change in school assignment system
"Mayor Thomas M. Menino vowed last night to radically change Boston’s school assignment lottery, taking aim at a system forged in the racially charged days of busing and pledging to create a plan that will send more children to classes closer to home.
"In his annual State of the City address, Menino decried a system that “ships our kids to schools across our city’’ and tears at the fabric of communities. The school-day Diaspora prevents bonds from developing among neighbors, Menino said, because parents do not car pool and their children are less likely to play together.
"As recently as 2008, Menino made the same promise in another State of the City address. At that time, the mayor said he would not “pour dollar after dollar into gas tanks’’ as he vowed to “rethink our school assignment zones.’’ In last night’s speech, he acknowledged past efforts, but promised that this year would be different.
"He is ordering Superintendent Carol R. Johnson to appoint a citywide task force to design a new system and determine how it should be implemented.
"Councilor Tito Jackson said after the speech: “I want to know what the radical change is. I know what the problem is.’’
"Jackson said that all parents want the same opportunities for their children, but lamented that schools in his Grove Hall neighborhood lack advanced classes offered elsewhere. “The problem is we need quality schools across the city,” Jackson said, adding, “We’re not there yet.’’
"In 2009, Johnson proposed five student assignment zones, but the plan collapsed under public scrutiny, mostly because of a lack of good-quality schools.
"Since then, the School Department has closed several low-performing schools, expanded some high-performing schools, and improved support for schools in a swath of the city that includes much of Roxbury and Dorchester. Administrators have also made fundamental changes at 11 state-designated underperforming schools, and some show signs of a turnaround.
“The Boston public schools have come a long way in the last 20 years,’’ Menino said in last night’s speech. “I’m committing tonight that one year from now Boston will have adopted a radically different student assignment plan, one that puts a priority on children attending schools closer to their homes.’’