Nationwide property tax cap proposals have public schools searching for innovative ways to cope with funding deficits. In New York, which faces a 2 percent tax cap, many districts are considering adopting the cost-saving “Princeton Plan” for their elementary schools. The PP eliminates the use of geographic district lines to assign students to schools and instead puts all same-age kids together. The result is more balanced groups that have to physically change schools more often. For example, a child goes to one school building for K-1, then another for grades 2-3, and another for 4-5. Putting all the first-graders in a district together is meant to balance class size and save money by eliminating a number of full-time positions. Balance, of course, is mostly appreciated by those whose class size would go down. That’s not everybody.
It’s called the Princeton Plan after the famous New Jersey suburb that desegregated its schools in 1948, half-a-dozen years before the Supreme Court banned segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. Princeton placed all its elementary school kids in one school (the formerly all-white school) and its middle school kids in the other (formerly all-black) school. Today the debate over whether to adopt the Princeton Plan in New York doesn’t overtly mention race, even if districting along racial lines is an age-old practice. Opposition to the plan does overtly cite sibling separation, logistical inconvenience, less teacher attention for those forced to join larger classes, and lack of age-diversity at the schools, which many educators and parents believe is an important factor in effective socialization.