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County needs to take balanced approach to creating diversity [Letter]

7:21 PM EST, November 19, 2013

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Real balanced socioeconomic diversity in Howard County could contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty by taking better advantage of our countywide school system.

However, Howard County government has failed the balance test. It has looked to the older Columbia villages to accept the bulk of low-income family housing. The possible negative impact on these villages and their schools has gone unrecognized.

Oakland Mills has the largest low-income housing concentration with the most schools bearing the highest percent of special needs students. Stevens Forest Elementary has at least 70 percent free or reduced lunch, limited English proficient, and special education students. Talbot Springs Elementary has about 60 percent. The middle and high schools also have the highest ratios in the county. This large concentration may reduce the effectiveness of the best of teaching staffs. Our low school test scores demonstrate this problem. Further, low scores detract from the perception of Oakland Mills and limit home values.

Villages like River Hill, Maple Lawn, Fulton, Dorseys Search, Town Center, Clarksville and Cooksville now contribute little to socio-economic diversity. I realize they celebrate their schools' unimpeded high test scores and awards, which bless their community and home values. But shouldn't Howard government expect them to do their part?

The Columbia villages, particularly Oakland Mills, Wilde Lake and Long Reach, have done more than their share.

Werner Gruhl

Columbia