The magnet schools program in Wake County has been an innovative, enriching experience for thousands of students since 1982, and it has drawn suburban kids and their parents into low-income neighborhoods they might not ever have even visited.
That’s been enriching for students who have been exposed to children of different and often more disadvantaged backgrounds, and vice versa. That experience helps both groups of students expand their horizons and better understand their community.
The magnet program, which has seen applications drop in the last seven years, will be strengthened by $9.6 million in federal money that’s coming from the U.S. Department of Education. Five magnets in Raleigh will share the money, and will use it to work on programs special to their campuses.
At Poe Elementary, a performance stage will be expanded, and now there will be instruments bought for a strings program, dancing shoes for tap, costumes for plays and textbooks for a class in Mandarin Chinese.
What that means is that Poe will become an attractive draw for students from all over the city, who can’t get those kinds of programs elsewhere, and whose parents recognize the value in an education that stretches their children beyond the basics. As a result, Poe will become more diverse in its student population.
The magnet program has worked. One, Combs Elementary, was named the top magnet in the country last spring by a trade organization.
Give Wake school officials credit. They’ve applied for and used federal money with great success, receiving in the last 30 years more than $45 million.
The system just makes such sense. Inner-city schools that might have withered, what with competition from private schools and home schooling and charters, now are stronger than ever thanks to their ability to draw students from throughout the city. Magnets make the entire system better.