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Bad News for the Magnet Schools


by Jerome Weeks 29 May 2009

The bad news: At last night’s DISD board meeting, the trustees voted 5-4 to cut positions at the city’s magnet schools, vanguards and learning centers. This affects not just the arts program at Booker T but also the science and engineering magnet, the government and law magnet, the business and management program, the health services […]

CTA TBD

The bad news: At last night’s DISD board meeting, the trustees voted 5-4 to cut positions at the city’s magnet schools, vanguards and learning centers. This affects not just the arts program at Booker T but also the science and engineering magnet, the government and law magnet, the business and management program, the health services program, the talented and gifted magnet, the vanguard programs in the elementary schools that feed into the magnets, the learning centers designed to boost low-income students — and on and on.

Most of the DISD board’s claims that they had to do this because of federal and Texas education regulations were shown to be muddled or false the past several weeks. The calculations are very complicated, the numbers can be spun various ways and exemptions for particular schools can be asked for and have regularly been granted in the past. As the News reports this morning, “Even federal authorities have challenged the dire claims by school officials.”

And, of course, some of these schools are the most successful ones in the district.

Didn’t matter. The board went ahead anyway.

The worse news: According to Jim Schutze (and my wife, who was also there), this was an ugly meeting with snarling dismissals of the learning centers and magnets from the board, plus shouted, scolding remarks from audience members, and a final promise by board member (and newly elected vice-president) Carla Ranger to challenge the vote legally.

One sign of how divisive things were: The vote didn’t take place until this morning, just after 1 a.m. following hours of debate and backroom consultations. Another sign: This is probably the bitterest report I’ve read from Schutze. He argues that DISD has defiantly thrown out the advances it made with the desegregation order (which imposed the magnets, vanguards and learning centers on the reluctant district). As I noted in an earlier post, the issue plays to racial and class conflicts, pits schools and against schools, teachers against teachers.

And here is Eric Celeste over at Frontburner explaining his take on exceptional programs vs. equitable access.

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  • Rawlins Gilliland

    If this one’s too layered and complicated to me….a Dallas native and DISD 12 yr. grad who has many friends who teach therein still……..then who can sort through this and take a fair an objective look-see and arrive at reasoned conclusions.

    I do know as a postscript~~as someone who has also (me) been to many schools as a guest teacher and for career day, volunteer, etc. ~~~that some schools feel cut adrift and on their own quasi disenfranchised while others feel like they’ve been adopted by ‘benefactors’. Indicating somehow a disparity otherwise unexplained.

  • Bill Marvel

    “the issue plays to racial and class conflicts”
    Undoubtedly, and in ways that are very complex. There has been, for as long as I can remember, a strong feeling on the part of many of those in DISD administration that the very idea of magnet school is elitist and therefore racist. This, despite the fact that the magnets were established to desegregate the Dallas school system.
    Sadly, almost everyone who writes on the subject writes around this unpleasant fact. Because the argument is couched in terms of budgets and other peripheral matters, the philosophical and ethical underpinnings of this argument seldom get aired. Even Schutze, who has been particularly acute on this issue, has not met the real objections to magnet schools head-on.

  • Cliffhanger

    There’s a perception of elitism that some in DISD love to allow to linger, but the bottom line is that EVERY magnet is majority minority.

    Every last one of them. The academy my younger son attends is 96% minority and 85% economically disadvantaged. But letting stuff like that out doesn’t suit some agendas. Schutze actually did bring that up.

    As far as Celeste’s take, it’s pretty much the whitewash one might expect of D. When the original TEA edict came down–in the form of an e-mail from a relatively low-level functionary requesting more information, not a ruling–he started waving it around and acting like Lord Vader himself had descended on Ross Avenue, threatening to behead all those who dared exceed 110% by a single penny. A more reasonable, dare I say competent, person, might have asked TEA for more details, for suggestions, for help, might have gone over TEA’s head to the DoE–the very thing that an independent coalition of parents, board members and political leaders from across Dallas did–to get answers. We were all able to get responses from TEA and DoE within days. Hinojosa has yet to produce a single shred of evidence that he or anyone on his staff made any enquiries at all as to what options Dallas had to comply, save for a letter from an alleged “consultant” dated within the last week.

    The Superintendent has zero cred right now. Blaming TEA? For what? Asking DISD to do some accounting someone can explain?

    Nobody understands DISD accounting, which is one of the reasons we’re $84 million and counting in the hole. Eric, this is no time to be letting Hinojosa off the hook.