WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), members of the House Education and Labor Committee, and U.S. Representative Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-Ga.) introduced legislation to improve and expand upon the federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grant, which has been a key driver for the growth of magnet schools. Magnet schools are public schools designed to cater to different learning styles and attract a wide range of students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds across zip codes. More than 3.5 million students attend magnet schools nationwide, but as school districts become increasingly segregated by race and income, this legislation updates the MSAP grant to expand access to funding and ensure it supports magnet schools with the greatest impact on improving diversity and academic performance. In Connecticut, 86 magnet schools serve nearly 40,000 students in grades pre-K through 12 across 29 districts.
The Magnet Schools Accessibility, Growth, and Nonexclusionary Enrollment Transformation (MAGNET) Act will amend the existing federal MSAP grant to prioritize applicants that plan to establish whole-school magnet schools, emphasize inter-district diversity, and propose strategies to improve diversity and academic performance across schools and districts. It will also authorize a new grant program housed under MSAP, the Supplemental Diversity Grant (SDG), which aims to continue supporting the work of existing magnet programs aspiring to improve their diversity-related goals.
“Diverse, integrated classrooms are good for all students, but the reality is American schools in many states are more segregated than ever. Investing in magnet schools that prioritize diversity is one way to make sure all students – regardless of their zip code – get a quality education. Our bill ensures more school districts can access federal grants to get their magnet programs off the ground, and existing schools continue receiving critical support for their efforts,” said Murphy.
“Magnet schools provide an important option for parents. By bringing together students from different zip codes, these schools are vital to improving equity and diversity in our classrooms - contributing to overall success for students. The federal government should continue funding magnet schools while meeting its responsibility to provide better resources for all schools,” said Blumenthal.
“As a nation, we have a moral obligation to invest in every child’s future by ensuring true educational equity for all,” said Booker. "I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce the Magnet Schools Accessibility, Growth, and Nonexclusionary Enrollment Transformation (MAGNET) Act that will help bolster our public education system and ensure that every child, regardless of their racial or socioeconomic background, has access to quality education. Students from low-income, Black, or Brown communities – or those from marginalized backgrounds – should never be left behind by our education system."
“Magnet schools have been an absolute success in eastern Connecticut—from pre-K all the way through high school, we’ve got magnet schools purpose-built to provide educations focused on real-world subject matter like marine sciences, manufacturing, fine arts, STEM courses, and more,” said Courtney. “These are schools where our students are excited to go and learn every day, and what’s most exciting is that they’re really setting the bar for education excellence in our region—just recently, Thames River Magnet School in Groton was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School. Our local magnet schools were all made possible by the federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which I’ve always supported, and the MAGNET Act would create an opportunity for even more young students to attend these mission-specific, high-performing schools. Glad to introduce the MAGNET Act today in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
“All students deserve a high quality public education. Unfortunately too many children are educated in schools with limited educational opportunities,” said Hayes. “The MAGNET Act helps to reduce these disparities and provides schools with the federal support needed to close the gap for our most vulnerable students and make education truly equitable for all.”
“Magnet schools provide students across different backgrounds with the opportunity to embark on a specific learning journey through detailed curriculum tracks. Georgia has more than ten magnet schools across several counties. As the representative for three of those counties – Bibb, Dougherty, and Muscogee Counties, which hosts several magnet schools and programs – I am proud to support this transformative bill,” said Bishop.
“The MAGNET Act doubles down and expands upon the original mission of the MSAP program to improve equity and diversity in public schools,” said Todd Mann, Executive Director of Magnet Schools of America. “Thank you to Senator Murphy and Representative Courtney for your leadership on this issue, and we look forward to working with you towards improving equity, diversity, and student success in more public schools.”
“Integrated schools are one of the only ways we have to prepare students from all backgrounds to live and work successfully in an extremely diverse and unequal society. Good magnet schools committed to diversity offer the great combination of unique educational programs and bringing students together to share that opportunity and learn from each other,” said Gary Orfield, Co-Director of Civil Rights Project at UCLA.
“Research and the experiences of districts seeking to desegregate for more than 50 years illustrates the important role magnet schools can play in attracting racially and economically diverse students to high-quality, uniquely themed public schools. This proposed act reflects research evidence about the important ways to strengthen the existing MSAP and potentially expand funding to assist a wider number of applicant districts. As a researcher studying how to design school choice to better integrate students and as a graduate of a magnet school in Mobile, Alabama, I hope the MAGNET Act will be approved to support our nation’s communities and schools to realize the benefits of diverse schools,” said Erica Frankenberg, Director of Center for Education & Civil Rights at Penn State.
The MAGNET Act is endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); National Education Association (NEA); Magnet Schools of America; National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP); National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD); Capitol Region Education Council; Center for Educational Equity, Teachers College, Columbia University; Center on Law, Inequality, and Metropolitan Equity at Rutgers Law School; Civil Rights Project at UCLA; Education Law Center; Integrated Schools; Poverty and Race Research and Action Council (PRRAC); Southern Education Foundation; and Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation.
Full text of the bill available here.