A state education panel on Tuesday forwarded a proposal to reverse the state’s controversial exclusion of magnet schools from the chance to win a prestigious national award in favor of “nonselective” schools.
With little discussion, a committee of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education unanimously approved new nominating criteria for determining which Louisiana public schools are eligible for Blue Ribbon school of excellence awards given out annually by the U.S. Department of Education.
The board will take up the proposed criteria for final adoption Thursday.
The Louisiana Department of Education had announced in March, after the original controversy broke, that it would rewrite the nominating criteria.
“The criteria you have in front of you is the federal criteria; there is no deviation,” state Superintendent of Education John White explained.
White said the change is a return to the past. It was only two years ago, he said, when his federal programs staff began adding additional requirements, but it is now discontinuing the practice.
In an interview Monday, White said that his staff excluded magnet schools, frequent winners of the prestigious honor, in order to give other schools a better shot at winning.
In March, his office released a statement saying it was excluding magnet schools to exclude selective schools from consideration.
Magnet schools began as a desegregation tool, using specialized programs to attract a diverse set of students. Many, but not all, are selective. At the same time, there are other Louisiana public schools that are selective that have remained eligible for Blue Ribbon nomination.
At least 29 of the 151 Louisiana schools that have won Blue Ribbons since the federal government began awarding them in 1982 have been magnet schools. Five, including two-time winner Baton Rouge Magnet High School, are part of the East Baton Rouge Parish public school system.
The exclusion of magnet schools was heavily criticized by groups that support magnet schools.
Central School Superintendent Michael Faulk sent state leaders a letter last week asking that they make public the new criteria and seek feedback from educators. Faulk also was critical of what he considered a lack of transparency.
Faulk said Tuesday that he has yet to review the new criteria.
“We’ve got one or two schools that we would like to go through the process and apply,” Faulk said.