The Iowa City school board will vote Tuesday on a controversial student diversity policy for the district’s schools. The policy seeks to better balance the number of low-income students among Iowa City’s school buildings using the percentage of students in each school that are eligible for free-or-reduced price lunches.
The low-income numbers currently range from 79-percent in one elementary school down to six-perent in another school. School board president, Marla Swezey, says that is affecting student performance. “What we really want to achieve is to have equal opportunities for all students in our community school district, and give them the best opportunities to have high achievement in their educations,” Swezey says.
“So, we’re looking at this as a beginning point to try to attack that problem, and keep it from getting worse as we continue to grow as a community.” Parents jammed a recent forum on the issue — they have concerns over the methods the board will use to achieve the balance.
Swezey, a former teacher, says they are not to the that point yet.“So, a lot of people were wanting to know what things are going to be happening..but that would be the next conversation,” Swezey says.
Five Iowa school districts –Des Moines, Davenport, West Liberty, Postville and Waterloo — already have diversity policies, but only regarding open enrollments in and out of the districts. Iowa City’s proposal is the most comprehensive –systematically requiring all its schools to be within a specified percentage of low income students receiving free or reduced priced lunches.