Last Thursday, President Biden submitted to Congress his budget request for fiscal year 2024. The document is an important tool for understanding the Biden Administration’s policy priorities across government, including the Department of Education and the programs it administers. For MSA and our members, all eyes are on the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, and this year’s request includes $149 million for the MSAP, the same amount included in the fiscal year 2023 request. MSA believes that figure is insufficient to support the critical mission of magnet schools, and we urge the President and Congress to provide greater funding for the MSAP and to identify more opportunities to fund and prioritize magnet schools, in fiscal year 2024 and beyond.
The MSAP is the only federal education grant meant to assist local school districts in creating specialized, theme-based programs designed to desegregate schools, allowing districts to cultivate diverse schools through voluntarily parental choice rather than mandatory student assignment.
There are over 4,300 magnet schools across the United States, serving nearly 3.5 million students. Magnet schools are open to all students, regardless of zip code, allowing families to choose programs that appeal most to their children’s academic talents and interests. These programmatic themes range from STEM (or, by integrating the arts, STEAM), to language immersion, to career and technical education, to Montessori or International Baccalaureate.
Designed to cater to different learning styles and attract a wide range of students from varied racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, magnet schools capture the egalitarian and meritocratic ideals that are the best of what our nation’s public schools can be. And they work. Research shows that magnet schools offer students a range of social and academic benefits. As our nation faces growing polarization and economic stratification, magnet schools are as essential to America’s education landscape as ever before.
Although appropriations for the MSAP have increased steadily over the last few years, the President’s request for fiscal year 2024 is flat, the same $149 million requested last year. Although that figure is above the fiscal year 2023 appropriation, it nevertheless fails to meet the moment. MSA is urging the Biden Administration and Congress to provide the greatest possible funding for the MSAP. For fiscal year 2024, we ask that Congress appropriation at least $175 million for the MSAP. But we ask also that appropriators consider whether other funding streams, either formula (e.g., Title I) or discretionary, may be appropriate sources of support for magnet schools. And we urge the Secretary of Education to use his Supplemental Priorities—specifically, Priority 2—to ensure that discretionary grant programs, where possible, prioritize the growth and support of magnet schools.
A budget request that does not include a real increase for the MSAP program sends the wrong message about the importance of tackling the longstanding ills of segregation and concentrated poverty in America’s schools. That is the overarching mission of magnet schools, and that’s why they deserve to be prioritized and supported.
Raise the level of performance consistent throughout school districts nationwide and creates a platform from which all magnet schools can flourish. Magnet Schools of America’s national certification process is designed to recognize the hard work of the best magnet schools in the nation and to help them as they grow.