HOUSTON – Change is being debated for Houston Independent School District magnet schools. Funding cuts, as well as future locations of magnet programs, are on the table for consideration this spring.
During a February HISD Board workshop on those issues, outgoing Superintendent Richard Carranza said, "There are vast neighborhoods in our city and our district that have not been served well for a number of years."
The district board is considering making access to magnets easier for all HISD students. One of the ideas supported by some board members considers splitting the district into quadrants. Each area would have elementary, middle and high school magnet programs. Some of those schools would also be linked into feeder patterns to establish continuity of programs throughout a child’s school years.
The district said it's not a done deal and input is still needed from parents, students and district leaders.
Some parents told KPRC 2 they're concerned the district will take from existing programs to correct what some leaders believe is a racially and ethnically unbalanced system.
Board Member Jolanda Jones recently shared her position on magnet school funding and racial balance at the board's magnet workshop.
"I've got real problems with it because it is not by accident. It is by design that a lot of the schools that everybody wants to go to, want their kids to go to, totally have priority of white students for the most part, like, well above their percentage in the district. And most of them have a high percentage of Asian and Pacific Island students. That is not an accident. That is not random. That is not a lottery. That is some human using their subjective judgment to racially profile people and accept into those programs the special kids, whoever they are, and I've got real problems with that," Jones said.
KPRC 2 asked HISD for data on magnet enrollment by campus, racial makeup and per pupil spending. We put the current academic year's data into a spreadsheet and calculated the percentage of each racial and ethnic category.
HISD currently funds magnets by grade level and program theme.
KPRC 2 also used that information to map the per pupil spending and racial makeup of the district's current magnet schools. To see an individual school's information, just click on the pins. The maps show Asian, African-American, Hispanic and white student populations for each magnet. The spreadsheet includes all racial and ethnic breakouts by school and the percentage of each group.
VIEW MAP: HISD Magnet Schools
VIEW MAP: HISD Magnet School Per Pupil Spending
HISD data shows Kashmere High School has three magnet programs, each with a different per pupil spending amount. The difference is because HISD currently determines per pupil spending by program type and grade level.
Kashmere's Performing Arts Magnet Program is funded at $1,150 per student; its Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Magnet Program gets $150 per student; and its Future Academy Magnet Program get $300 per pupil. Its magnet population includes:
- 0% Asian
- 64.18% African-American
- 34.04% Hispanic
- 0.97% white
Jones looked at the data, too, and said, "It is important to us that all magnet programs, especially the nonzoned, highly desired magnet programs, such as DeBakey, HSPVA and Carnegie, reflect the overall demographics of the district. The district, overall, is 4 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 9 percent white and 77 percent economically disadvantaged."
HISD data shows DeBakey High School's Medical Careers Magnet Program gets $1,225 per pupil. Its magnet population includes:
- 39.42% Asian
- 15.70% African-American
- 33.72% Hispanic
- 9.30% white
HSPVA's Fine Arts Magnet Program gets $1,150 per pupil funding. Its magnet population includes:
- 8.52% Asian
- 17.58% African-American
- 25.70% Hispanic
- 44.47% white
The Carnegie High School Vanguard Magnet Program gets $410 per pupil, which falls in the middle of the funding range for magnet programs. Its magnet population includes:
- 28.71% Asian
- 7.18% African-American
- 35.56% Hispanic
- 25.29% white
HISD's student population as a whole is 24% African-American, 0.2% American Indian, 3.9% Asian/Pacific Islander, 62.2% Hispanic, 8.6% white and 1.1% two or more races.
"None of the schools listed above meets the district percentages of African-American or Hispanic students," Jones said. "It is also important to note that each of these schools also draws a majority of their students from the southwest and west portions of the district. Since these schools have no attendance zone, they should be enrolling students from across the district."
"So if a school is racially imbalanced as compared to the district and they receive the highest levels of per-student funding, there is a funding imbalance," Jones said.