As the leading voice for magnet schools in the nation, Magnet Schools of America represents your interests before Congress, the White House, and federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, MSA closely monitors and analyzes emerging policy issues that impact magnet schools and communicates this information to our members.
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
In a substantial victory for magnet schools across the country, the President signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This legislation will reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act also known as the No Child Left Behind Act and expand federal support for magnet programs. It reauthorizes the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) and allows funding for MSAP to gradually grow from its current level of $91 million to $108 million in FY 2020. In addition, the ESSA will extend the length of the grant by two years and increase cumulative grant funding for successful magnet programs to $15 million.
Magnet Schools of America (MSA) Executive Director Todd Mann stated, "We are very pleased that Congress has acknowledged the value and need to expand magnet schools in our public education system. The continuation of this crucial support will help countless school districts create new innovative theme-based magnet programs that will prepare our students to live in diverse communities and flourish in an increasingly competitive workforce.”
In addition to reauthorizing the program, the ESSA makes several strategic changes to (MSAP):
- It prioritizes the creation of magnet schools that promote socioeconomic integration and diversity. This acknowledges a wide body of research that shows that the socioeconomic composition of schools is the greatest factor affecting student achievement.
- The ESSA will improve the timeliness of the MSAP grant by instructing the U.S. Department of Education to disperse its grant funds at the beginning of the summer. Typically, MSAP grants are awarded in late September after the start of the school year, which limits the ability of school districts to properly plan before first-year magnet implementation.
- The bill will encourage school districts to work in coordination to break down barriers that sustain racial and socioeconomic isolation by creating interdistrict or regional magnet programs. This provision recognizes that the greatest amount of school segregation now occurs between school districts, rather than at the neighborhood level.
- The act will also eliminate the prohibition against using MSAP funds for transportation purposes, as long as it is sustainable and these costs do not constitute a significant portion of grant funds. This will help school districts improve access to new thriving magnet schools for all students while ensuring that a vast majority of MSAP funds will support core grant activities.
The ESSA emerged after months of bipartisan negotiations and is the combination of two bills that were passed in the House and Senate over the summer. MSA is optimistic that by passing this legislation, America’s public schools will be able to move out of an era of testing and sanctioning. This action will also help stem the tide of growing resegregation occurring in our classrooms and ensure that all students are provided with equitable educational opportunities.
Here is a summary of the entire legislation released by the House Education and Workforce Committee and a statement released by MSA supporting the legislation.
Magnet School Funding and Appropriations
For the second year in a row, the U.S. House of Representatives has slated the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) for elimination in FY 2017. In contrast, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has funded MSAP at the current level of $96 million. Neither chamber of Congress funded the program at the president's requested level of $115 million.
This action comes on the heels of a recent report by the Congressional General Accountability Office (GAO) that concluded that there has been a large increase in school segregation in America by race and class since 2001.
During a contentious debate of the bill in the House Appropriations Committee, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee from Oakland, CA expressed her opposition to the elimination of the program. Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro from New Haven, CT also called the cuts "deplorable" and introduced an amendment to restore funding to the program, along with 19 other education programs. Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated by a party-line vote.
Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole said that the programs that were cut in his bill are either too small to make a meaningful impact on student achievement or are ineffective. Nevertheless, he chose to fund charter schools.
In response to this alarming action, we ask that you contact your elected officials and let them know that your magnet programs are making a real difference in your community and in the lives of students. Please take a couple minutes to visit our Grassroots Action Center and submit a message now.
Final funding decisions will be made by Congress later this fall. Please make sure your voice is heard!
Magnet Schools of America’s Grassroots Action Center allows you to send messages to your elected officials, research pending legislation, review the votes of your members of Congress, and draft letters-to-the-editor of your local newspapers. MSA has also created a Grassroots Action Guide to help you build support for your magnet programs at the state and local level. We encourage you to utilize both of these tools to actively participate in the policy making process.
Policy Insider Blog
For more in-depth analysis of pending legislation and other education policy matters, visit our Policy Blog.