Not enough choices in LA

The Los Angeles Times last month published a parent's sordid tale of gaming the magnet school system in LA Unified School District to help get her child into her school of choice.  In the article, Gale Holland described how a system designed to help minority kids escape from overcrowded, substandard schools has morphed into a form of education poker.  Students are admitted to magnet schools under a complex set of rules that take into account their race, the racial balance of the school to which a student is applying, and many other factors, including how often you've been rejected by a magnet school in the past.  This has led many to apply to schools where they expect to be turned down as a way of accumulating priority points that can be used the next time around. Parents play a particularly fiendish variation of the game to get their kids into magnet schools for gifted children, the author writes.  She concludes, "The real problem is that the magnet system is too small."  Parents, we know, will go to great lengths to find good schools for their children; the only limiting factor seems to be the availability of options.  The great irony is that magnet schools are viewed as bona fide public schools despite the fact that they accept children based on test scores and race, while other schools of choice--such as charter and voucher schools--which generally accept all comers, are faulted by critics as not being true public schools simply because they aren't run by school systems.

"Magnet Schools: A Tilted Playing Field," by Gale Holland, Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2001

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