Magnet Programs Can't Keep Up With Demand

By: John Tramontana Email
By: John Tramontana Email

The preps are underway.

Thousands are expected to attend Saturday's Magnet Fair at Eastern High School, but not all will get a spot.

"Each year we'll have 1,000 new people that apply," said Magnet program marketing director Mark Mayes.

The problem is only a few hundred get accepted. It's not because the others aren't qualified, it's because there isn't enough room.

"There are space limitations at the buildings we have."

At Post Oak Elementary about 90 students are enrolled in the Chinese immersion program -- a class with a waiting list of hundreds. It's a program the district wants to expand but can't afford to.

"You want to do it right," Mayes said. "So that means we need to be able to have the support behind it, we need to have the training behind it. You can't just open a magnet school and snap your fingers."

In fact, each program takes about three years to come to fruition. The district must first secure federal grant money, then spend about $10-12,000 per teacher for training. Throw in another $40,000 for classroom equipment. So far, the district has secured three grants over nine years, about the maximum allowed.

"If we did not have the magnet grant that we are currently under, we could not afford to pay," said program director Worsie Gregory.

She says the district is only eligible for grants every three years, and next week she'll make her case in Washington, D.C. for more.

"We will lobby them to support Magnet programs and to put funding into the program."

But until more funding is secured, more students could be turned away.

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