No redistricting map can erase poverty or the economic segregation in Lexington's housing.
But how school zones are drawn can compound the educational disadvantages of concentrated poverty. And that should be a prime concern as the redistricting of Fayette County Public Schools moves into its final phase.
Last week, a 23-member committee completed recommendations to the Board of Education. The committee, which worked with admirable dedication, had been assigned conflicting goals.
The board asked it to recommend zones that would make schools more socioeconomically diverse. The board also wanted to keep neighborhoods together and children as close to home as possible, lowering transportation costs.
Never miss a local story.
The committee was tasked with creating attendance zones for two new elementary schools that will open in 2016 and a high school that will open in 2017. Another goal was to relieve overcrowding. FCPS is paying $857,964 a year to lease portable classrooms, mostly to ease overcrowding.
Of almost 40,000 students, 5,108 would be affected by the redistricting recommendations; of those, 1,688 would be moving to new schools. So the committee succeeded at minimizing disruption.
How well it met other priorities is something the board should scrutinize.
Lexington housing and neighborhoods are divided, largely into north and south, along income lines. The city has allowed development to deepen economic segregation.
Decades ago, black children carried the burden of racially integrating Fayette County's schools. They were scattered across the city, riding buses many miles, past other schools. No one, least of all black parents, wanted a repeat of that.
Given the consensus against crosstown busing and the official desire for neighborhood schools, gains in socioeconomic diversity must come by adjusting attendance among neighboring schools.
Whether the recommendations make the most of such opportunities — or preserve overcrowded islands of perceived privilege at the expense of "less desirable" schools nearby — is something the board must examine.
Ron Langley, who represented the Equity Council on the redistricting committee, is analyzing how the recommendations would affect the socioeconomic makeup of low-poverty and high-poverty schools.
We hope his analysis will illuminate opportunities for making schools more diverse even if some blocs of students have to travel a few extra miles.
It's in Lexington's best interest to have more schools that are regarded as high-performing. Plenty of data, along with testimony from Fayette County teachers, confirms that greater economic balance improves learning and achievement.
But, as the committee recognized, lines on a map fall far short of what's needed to educate Lexington's future workforce. The committee made some good recommendations — including expanded pre-school and differentiated instruction for children performing below grade level — that would amount to resources well spent.