Fight for racial equity puts spotlight on interdistrict transfer policy

District cuts transfers over budget concerns

In California, the quality of education a student receives largely depends on their parent’s wealth. In the Lafayette community specifically, the average home price is around $1.3 million. 

With that price and the lack of affordable housing in Lafayette, the only way for some to attend Lafayette public schools comes from interdistrict transfers. However, as a result of an adopted policy, most interdistrict transfers are no longer accepted into the Acalanes Union High School District. 

In a highly controversial decision in 2018, the district’s Governing Board voted to greatly reduce the number of interdistrict transfer students due to budgetary concerns. 

The policy went into effect during the 2019-2020 school year. The district still allowed interdistrict transfer students from previous years, district employees’ children, and partner school district employees’ children to transfer in from neighboring areas. 

One of these students is junior Aviruchi Dawadi, who transferred into the school district in 2018 because of the better opportunities offered here. 

“I am super grateful to go to Acalanes because the schools I was zoned for were not that great, and I really appreciate the education that I am able to receive. I feel that the policy is disheartening because there are kids in less fortunate areas who would benefit from a greater education and maybe end a cycle of poverty for a family, but it feels like the district is turning a blind eye to them,” Dawadi said. 

During the 2017-2018 school year, 13.9 percent of interdistrict transfer students came from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. Alongside this, people of color made up 52.9 percent of interdistrict transfer students. 

“Acalanes should have interdistrict transfer students because it is important to have more diversity and have people of varying socioeconomic positions so students here wouldn’t be ignorant to the varying experiences of others, and would be learning about others’ lifestyles from both their teachers and their peers,” junior Tessa Chan said. 

The district’s rationale for the reduction in interdistrict transfer students is that it is a result of state funding. In the district, the primary source of school funding comes from property taxes. Due to the high nature of these taxes, the state of California no longer pays the district on a student by student attendance basis. As a result, the district does not earn any money from the attendance of interdistrict transfer students. 

While it would be a positive change to take in transfer students and ideally increase diversity, I don’t think public schools can just snap their fingers and make changes like that because they’re funded by local citizens and their tax dollars, unlike private schools. It would take a lot of time and work to figure out how to pay for the extra students, and how to decide how many and exactly who should be accepted,” junior Caroline Hesby said. 

Other students were more vocal against the district’s earlier decision limiting transfers and led campaigns to promote the acceptance of transfer students. The Acalanes Union Coalition for Transfer Students (AUCTS) founded by Miramonte High School students promoted the policy being changed through their website and social media accounts. 

“Instagram has been essential for making statistics and data accessible and easily digestible. When students were first educated about the [interdistrict transfer} issue, many people expressed shock. Students can’t mobilize if they don’t know what’s happening but after our [Instagram] post went viral, we had over 50 students join our organization,” the coalition’s  digital media section head Athena Davis said. 

At its meeting on Sept. 16, the Acalanes district board voted unanimously to revise the interdistrict transfer policy to allow more transfers from outside the district.