Fort Mill Times

Listen to the parents

It's a good thing the Fort Mill School Board has several options to consider before deciding how to redraw attendance lines before the 2009 school year begins. That's because approximately 100 angry parents who live in and around the Regent Park area showed up at a meeting last week to oppose one of the options.

The option in question would start the new Sugar Creek Elementary School with nearly 10 percent more students from low-income families than at nearby Springfield Elementary. The parents said they want the district to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that sends more students who live near Sugar Creek to the new school, while more equitably spreading around those students from low-income families to all of the elementary schools.

Although we don't agree with those parents who say having more students from less advantaged backgrounds in one school makes it a foregone conclusion that school is less likely to succeed, some of them who spoke made valid points. One of the parents argued that parents of low-income students would be less likely to be active in parent-teacher organizations, leaving fewer parents to shoulder the burden.

That is often the case in school districts in our area and across the nation, but not because those parents are not interested.

The sad truth is that many parents in low-income households are forced to work longer hours than middle income parents, leaving much less time for involvement in organizations. Also, studies have shown that compared to their middle-income peers, more students from low-income families live in single-parent homes where they are less likely to receive the academic support that's instrumental to high performance.

To some people, it may seem the parents who made a strong show of force last week are cold and unsympathetic. They are neither. It's not unreasonable for them to look out for the best interests of their children.

At the same time, the school board is in an extremely difficult position when it comes to maintaining low student-teacher ratios and avoiding overcrowding in what is still the fastest-growing district in the state.

However, the board is elected by the people to serve the people. It would be foolish to ignore such an impassioned plea.