There are 3,500 students waiting for admission to a magnet school in the St. Louis Public School district. Most of them - 3,100 - are African American. There are also approximately 3,000 empty seats in magnet schools.
So, what’s the problem?
One problem is that school administrators are not able to admit many of the waiting African American children without disrupting the racial balance required by the settlement of a federal lawsuit. Last week, though, the School Board approved a new policy proposed by Superintendent Creg Williams that will help all children. Thirty-five percent of each magnet’s seats will now be open for children who live in the school’s immediate neighborhood.
In some City neighborhoods, this may mean that more parents of white children will opt to send their children to good public schools only blocks from their homes. If they do, the newly enrolled white students will support the ratio to allow a larger number of African American children to enroll in the magnets. And filling up more magnet seats makes those schools and their neighborhoods stronger.
Not every school board member supported Dr. Williams in this effort. However, the School Board majority led by Darnetta Clinkscale did.
Magnet schools offer - and usually deliver on - the promise of a good, free education. I am watching this new policy closely.