Jay Mathews suggested in his Nov. 1 Metro column, “Why not a Jefferson High for poor kids?,” that Fairfax County create an additional “TJ-style” magnet high school for disadvantaged students.
It might be easier — and, sadly, even appealing to some Fairfax residents — to shuffle the poor kids away into a separate school. But if public education is intended as the great equalizer, how can we justify any form of segregation within it? Besides the undeniable risk of stigmatizing students who attend a school “just for poor kids,” such segregation ignores that children learn as much from each other as they do from their teachers.
I fear that Mr. Mathews’s proposal will distract from undeniable race-based disparities in admission to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. These disparities simply cannot be explained away or remedied on socioeconomic grounds.
Poverty is not a prevailing factor in every black or Hispanic student’s life in Fairfax County, and many African American and Hispanic students come from affluent homes with two highly educated parents who are deeply committed to the success of their children.
Mr. Mathews’s column should not be read as giving Fairfax County Public Schools a “way out.” The school system must confront the unmistakable racial disparities in TJ admission — as well as racial disparities that are evident in every subject and program in the county.
Tina Hone, Falls Church
The writer, a Fairfax County School Board member from 2007 to 2011, is founder of the Coalition of the Silence, which advocates for poor and minority students and those with disabilities.