Editorials

School zoning not legislature’s job

Wellington Elementary School in Lexington would need to double in capacity to hold all the students that HB 151 could send its way.
Wellington Elementary School in Lexington would need to double in capacity to hold all the students that HB 151 could send its way.

Kentucky’s House has approved a bill that’s producing national headlines because it would dismantle Louisville’s school-desegregation efforts.

If the Senate goes along, the effect in Lexington would be newsworthy only here. But it could cause big headaches, nonetheless, by scrambling school zones that took 18 months to draw. As a result of that very public redistricting process, three-fourths of elementary students are assigned to the school nearest their homes.

But House Bill 151 requires that all students be allowed to enroll in the school nearest their homes, providing it has no admission rules. This could leave some Lexington schools almost empty and others with twice as many students as they can hold.

If all students enrolled in the school nearest their homes, Clays Mill and Cassidy elementaries would lose half their students. Russell Cave Elementary, in horse country, would be left at 14 percent of capacity with 42 students, while Wellington Elementary would be at almost double its capacity with 1,280 students.

Under HB 151, if the nearest school is over capacity, students would be allowed to enroll in the one with the next shortest travel time. The bill says no children can be displaced from their current schools. It’s hard to know how many parents would opt out of a well-regarded school to save a few minutes travel.

Still, sorting all that out and deciding who belongs where would impose new administrative burdens, an unfunded mandate and needless disruptions on everyone.

The possible unintended — and unconsidered — consequences reveal why the legislature should not try to micromanage these local decisions.

Not one education penny should be wasted on enforcing this legislative overreach, or carrying out a 40-year-old grudge in Jefferson County.

The Senate should mercifully let HB 151 die.

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