EAC Meeting Review - 02/11/2013
The EAC met last night to get more information from BPS and to further discuss the proposed plans. The new information from BPS included breakouts of several statistics by race, ethnicity and free lunch status; an analysis of a new 11 zone plan, and further analysis of the impact of various ways of implementing walk zone priority. These reports are available on the EAC meeting materials page.
The breakouts by race and ethnicity show that all groups have better minimum access to quality under all the new plans except for Asians. However, Asians have by far the highest minimum access in the current plan and would still have the highest minimum access in the new plans, but by a smaller margin. Those who qualify for free lunch and those who don't qualify for any lunch support also fare better under all of the new plans. Students who receive reduced lunch did worse, but it's important to note that this is quite a small group. When MIT analyzed their demand model for accuracy, they did not do a good job of predicting this group's choices because they didn't have enough data, so I don't feel that it's useful to look at the data for this group.
The next section of the BPS report covers their analysis of a new 11 zone plan that the EAC asked them to look at. This is a modified version of the 10 zone plan released on January 23rd. EAC members were concerned that the zone containing pretty much all of Dorchester and Mattapan was too big. It offered something like 14 school choices which was significantly more than other zones. They asked to see a similar plan with the Dorchester/Mattapan zone split into two zones. The modified plan doesn't look significantly different as far as overall equitable access to quality or distance traveled. The new northern Dorchester zone would have a smaller percentage of quality seats than the new southern Dorchester/Mattapan zone.
Laura Perille asked EAC members who had asked for the plan if the committee could go ahead and make a decision on whether they preferred the 10 or 11 zone version of the plan. She would like to go forward with three plans to choose from rather than adding a fourth. There was some discussion over which was better. The consensus favored the 11 zone version, though there was some concern that it splits Dorchester in half. I actually think that many members of the committee didn't have a strong opinion because they favor one of the home-based plans.
Carolyn Kain asked if they could refer to it as a modified 10 zone plan to be sure that people understood it was a modified version of the 10 zone plan from January rather than the 11 zone plan that BPS proposed in September. Ruthzee Louijeune and others felt like it was a bad idea to call the plan a 10 zone plan when it has 11 zones and worried it would create more confusion. She was critical of how BPS explained the plans at the meeting at Orchard Gardens last week and wanted to be sure they were explained more clearly at the next community meeting. In the end, I think they decided to call it an 11 zone plan but to make clear that it was based on the 10 zone plan from January.
The last part of the BPS report is on different the impact of different walk zone policies. For each plan they looked at median distance traveled with walk zone priority ranging from 20% to 80%. They also broke it out by using the current processing order versus the new proposed processing order (details on different processing orders in this post). Median distance ranged from 1.01 miles in the 10 zone plan and the home-based plan A using the current processing order to 1.24 miles for home-based plan B using the current processing order. If you look at keeping the percentage at 50% and just changing processing order, the impact on distance is tiny. The biggest change is for home-based plan B where the new processing order would reduce the median distance by .03 miles (158 feet).
BPS also showed minimum access to equity for each plan with various walk zone percentages and both processing orders. Here the differences are quite large. They range from 0% in the 10 zone with 80% walk zone priority and the current processing order to 28.1% for home-based plan B with less than 50% walk zone and the and the current priority.
Based on how the small reduction in distance traveled and how quickly equity drops off after 50 or 60% in most plans, it didn't seem like there was any appetite among committee members to increase walk zone priority beyond 50%. It seemed like the committee was leaning towards keeping the walk zone as it is. They still need to weigh in on whether to change processing order. At 50% it seems like the new processing order would make almost no difference except in home-based plan B where it would reduce minimum access to quality from 27.9% to 25.5%. There was also some discussion of whether it might be best to just keep walk zone priority exactly as it is. The idea being that if they remove it, that will get a lot of attention, while if they leave it as is it doesn't have much impact but it won't become a distraction from the changes in the new plans.
BPS has scheduled two more community meetings to explain the plans and get more feedback from the community. Tomorrow, Feb. 13, 6 pm at the Trotter School, 135 Humboldt Ave, Dorchester, and next Thursday, Feb. 21 at 6pm in East Boston at a location to be determined. I strongly urge everyone to attend one or both of these meetings if you can. These may well be the last chances for the community to give their feedback on these plans before the EAC makes a recommendation.
In addition, the committee is holding meetings to discuss their recommendations on Wednesday, 2/20, 6 pm. at Suffolk University, 73 Tremont St., 9th flr. and Saturday morning, 2/23 - exact time and location TBD. The Saturday meeting is "if needed," but it's hard to imagine that they will get through all the details of their recommendations without that meeting.
They are scheduled to vote on their final recommendations on Monday, 2/25 - 6 pm. at Suffolk University, 73 Tremont St., 9th flr.