Subsidized-lunch data are confidential and cannot be used to determine which schools students attend, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has warned the Wake County, N.C., school district.
That revelation could dim hopes for those who want the 143,000-student district to return to a previous student-assignment policy that relied on socioeconomic factors to balance enrollment. (“Cooling Signs in Wake Debate,” Feb. 23, 2011.) Wake County had used data on students who get free and reduced-price lunches for more than a decade to develop student-assignment plans.
The opinion from the Agriculture Department could have national repercussions. When the U.S. Supreme Court restricted the use of race in student assignment in 2007, justices left open the use of socioeconomic diversity. The U.S. Department of Justice had cited Wake County’s former approach as a role model.
A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2011 edition of Education Week as USDA Bars Lunch-Data Use in Student-Assignment Plan