What?! The last couple of weeks I have been reading about Jefferson County Public Schools in the Louisville Courier Journal. All of the stories have intrigued me, and produced questioning on my part. The story and comments about magnet schools piqued my interest.
I have always admired the fact that Jefferson County Public Schools had magnet opportunities & traditional schools. Students were provided with a rich choice of educational experiences. I loved that Jefferson County did not make all of their schools the same. Parents were given an opportunity to find a good fit for their children. I knew there were some problems with the system, but the article brought out some real concerns with the magnet schools system that quite frankly shocked me.
When people fought charter schools in the Louisville area, one argument was – “We already have choices for our students.” You really couldn’t argue that, even though the rest of the state of Kentucky may not have had those choices. This opinion piece is not about charter schools though; it is about the inadequacies of the current system. I mention charter schools because the magnet system was touted as a reason for not needing to do something different.
So what’s my problem? When a large number of students are “let go” from magnet schools or encouraged to leave because of low grades and/or behavior issues - that is a problem. When most of those students are low income students and students of color (as stated in the article), that is a problem. When there are requirements that students must meet to enter those schools – that is a problem.
Why should these things be problems? Voices continue to rise that encourage us to support public education. After all, public education supports ALL children. They say the public school system is the only system that meets the needs of every child. My question is – Are these magnet schools really public schools if they have requirements for entrance and can “let students go?” I was under the impression that public schools had to educate each and every child; they could not pick and choose who attends based on grades and behavior. I was under the impression that public schools could NOT make students leave due to poor grades and that the behavior issue would have to be major enough to result in disciplinary actions that followed disciplinary procedures set forth by the school system.
Another question I have -How many highly effective teachers leave the other public schools in the system to teach at the magnet schools? Also where do the students attend once they are encouraged to leave the magnet school? I’m assuming that the students that are let go or do not fulfill requirements go back to one of the other Jefferson County schools that have to take all students. They have to be educated somewhere. These are often the students who cannot afford to attend private schools and probably wouldn’t be admitted there either.
I whole heartedly agree that we need to support public school education. We also need to make sure our schools are equitable. I hope that Jefferson County Public School s continues to offer magnet school experiences along with traditional schools. I also hope they find answers and solutions to the identified problems. Saying that families will leave to go to private schools if they change the current magnet system, is not the answer needed. That is an excuse. How can we improve the idea of magnet schools and make sure all students are provided with an enriched school experience? That is the big question.