Education News

Magnet Schools Face Uncertain Future

Some parents of children who attend HISD magnet schools will get a chance to speak their mind tonight. The district is holding town hall meetings to talk with parents about the future of those programs. A new report by an independent consultant found a number of problems with the magnet schools and recommends many of them be terminated. Bill Stamps has more.

A magnet school can be a special program within the school, like a technology or engineering program at a neighborhood high school, or it can be the theme of the entire school, like a school for performing arts. There are 113 of these programs within HISD and a consulting firm says almost half of them need to go.

Lupita Hinojasa an HISD’s Magnet School Administrator explains some of the reasons.

“Number one, I would say inconsistency with the funding of magnet programs, as well as the standards being used and upheld at all of our magnet schools. Also talked about, the lack of transparency in access for students to get into the magnet programs.”

Basically, some magnet programs may get a couple thousand dollars, while others may receive tens of thousands. There’s also confusion and perceived unfairness about who gets admitted and how you get admitted. Some schools hold auditions while others hold lotteries.

“We’ve also heard from parents about their inability to get their children into a magnet program. They’re very concerned about that.”

The difference in funding levels is due to the contract or deal each school signed with the school board when it applied to have a magnet program. Schools that started their programs years ago in the 70’s or 80’s receive much more money than some of the newer programs. Hinojosa says one school told the board when they applied ‘we don’t want the money; we just want to be able to have the name ‘magnet school.”

Hinojosa says the district knew there were problems with the magnet programs and that’s why they wanted a third party to take a look.

“We did know to some extent that there was inconsistencies, but that’s we want to be able to do. That’s what the board wants to be able to do: to insure that every child every family has an equal opportunity to get into the programs that they select and that they want their child to attend.”

District officials, including the superintendent will take the information from the consultants as well as feedback from the community and make a recommendation to the board. The board can then decide to make some or all of the changes or decide to keep things just as they are.

For more information about magnet school and meetings, visit the HISD Website.

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