By Eileen Luo
Advisor: Julie Yang
“The Seneca Valley PTA’s advice… [the] Clarksburg [and] Northwest [opposition]. Those that were organized by Asians- none of them were present [at the school boundary discussions]. What is this? Why weren’t our voices included?”
To answer this and other questions, on December 18, 2019, at Herbert Hoover Middle School, CAPA-MC Board President Jay Guan addressed a crowd of MCPS parents to address their concerns regarding potential changes in the MCPS school boundaries and encourage them to make their voice heard.
“CAPA-MC,” he introduced, “is an advocacy group… founded in 2016, after the changes to the GT [program]. We organized the community to give testimonies [and] organized the first BOE candidate forum”. Having conducted such events, CAPA-MC has not only helped unite the Chinese American community, but has also given them a voice in the local education system.
As an action that would impact many MCPS families and shape the futures of countless MCPS students, the MCPS boundary study is one of CAPA-MC’s main topics of concern.
Guan speaking at Hoover MS. Photo by Eileen Luo.
imeline and Effective Advocacy
Guan first gave a summary of the MCPS boundary analysis timeline. “Phase One, Phase Two,” he introduced, “are basically public hearing procedures.” Spanning a time period of about half a year, the two phases together are planned to take place from the fall of 2019 to the spring of 2020.
Despite many people have voiced their opposition to a redraw of the MCPS school boundaries, the boundary analysis procedure is still moving forward.
“What can our community do?” asked Guan. “We have several options. First: lobbying. Second: pressure campaign.”
“Lobbying is a formal type of advocacy,” said Guan. “Besides influencing the outcome of the report, we can [participate in writing] the draft of the action plan”, which is scheduled to take place after MCPS obtains the results of the boundary analysis. The impact of boundary analysis, however, extends far beyond just the Chinese American community. For this reason, Guan also suggested that the Chinese American community try to reach out and connect with other groups and people.
The second method was a “pressure campaign”, which Guan argued is more effective because of its “disruptive” nature. Whereas an email can be glanced over, pressure campaign methods (e.g. protests or phone calls) force the receiver to stop what they are doing in order to deal with the campaign.
If one voices opposition in writing, Guan also recommended that one’s message be concise and that it “does not speak for anyone else or against anyone else”. Why? After coming across offensive language, Guan said, the receiver of the message at MCPS “will only remember the offensive language, not the argument and main points that you write of later in the message, no matter how strongly presented they are.”
Potential Impacts of Redistricting
Afterward his speech, Guan conducted a Q&A session. Many audience members expressed skepticism towards the boundary analysis and suggested that CAPA-MC commission a separate analysis to corroborate or prove wrong the conclusions drawn by the MCPS’s analysis.
Others brought up the commonly held view that redistricting school boundaries based on student demographics would mean longer bus rides for many MCPS students, regardless of their income or ethnicity. “Compared to other states, the students in [MCPS] high schools already wake up very early,” said Mrs. He, an MCPS resident who strongly opposes the notion of school redistricting. “If MCPS continues to take away from that time, one hour or half an hour [for bus rides], then they’re just taking away time for students to rest.”
Breaking up communities through irregular school boundaries would also mean limiting opportunities for these communities to come together as a community that exists in not just geography, but also spirit.
Another MCPS parent referred back to an earlier point that Guan had made: that simply putting those receiving FARMS in the same school as affluent students is not enough to bring up the latter’s test scores. Students receiving FARMS need easier access to adequate resources and services, necessities which cannot be obtained by simply moving MCPS students around the county.
“My advice would be to determine exactly what problem are they trying to solve,” said Guan in an interview at the conclusion of the event. “There is a lot of talk of why they are doing this, but there isn’t really a set narrative… you hear a lot about desegregating MCPS, you hear a lot about socioeconomic disparities, but the reality is that Montgomery County is a diverse place, both in its population and geography. You have rural areas that cover a vast expanse of Montgomery County [that] are, socioeconomically speaking, less diverse, [but] it’s simply because [they are geographically] isolated.”
The general consensus was that MCPS, in the process of conducting the boundary analysis, had not considered factors that would not benefit, if even negatively impact students' well-being and performance in school. If MCPS is to take into account such factors, however, then the dissatisfied community cannot stand back and do nothing. “Not participating [in this process] guarantees that we will not reach any of our goals,” Guan said emphatically at the end of his speech. “I can also tell you for certain that if you do not participate, then [a harmful] outcome will definitely occur.”
For more information on CAPA-MC’s current talking points regarding the MCPS school boundaries, you may visit the following link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OLoCZTtNNgxzl6Dw4D7el4O7552cRQTFja4jDr-H88o/mobilebasic
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 19 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.