Cincinnati Parents Protest New Process for Magnet Schools


When the Cincinnati Public School Board decided to change the policy of reserving some seats at its magnet schools on a first-come, first-served basis to an online lottery system, parents were largely unhappy about the change, and this week parents voiced their frustrations outside the board's meeting. WCPO-TV reporter John Genovese says next month the change will take place while the district works out a permanent, long-term policy.

Some parents felt they had been left out of the decision-making process with many adding that public dialogue is an important part of such a move. A parent advocacy group, Cincinnatians for School Access, agreed that the first-come, first-served process was not ideal, but felt the change came about without due process. Part of an op-ed written for WCPO stated:

"The change to a lottery comes less than three months before enrollment for the 2016-17 school year. While the [old] system may have exposed inequities, it was simple and transparent, and the school board has yet to come up with a better solution."

When school board members called the new system more fair, one parent countered that the lottery system is not necessarily inclusive and ensures nothing. But University of Cincinnati Associate Professor of Education Sarah Stitzlein disagrees with the parent groups, saying camping out to win a child's seat in the school of their choice was not fair either.

"Parent campout as a sign of commitment should not be a prerequisite to high-quality education for any child, otherwise we cannot genuinely fulfill the promise of education as the great equalizer."

The decision was not made lightly, according to Board President Alex Kuhns. He continued by disagreeing with the idea that parents were left out of the discussion because the issue had been a point of debate many times at public meetings.

Parents got down to business by arriving thirty minutes before the start of the board meeting, writes Hannah Sparling of The Cincinnati Enquirer. They enumerated three demands for the Cincinnati Public Schools board of education, and the parents want the board to admit they should have given parents more opportunity for input.

The Cincinnatians for School Access said they wanted a moratorium on the new policy or another "acceptable compromise" for the 2015-2016 school year, and they want a hired, third-party consultant to monitor transparency and community engagement as the process continues.

In 2014, some parents camped out for 16 days prior to the application date. CPS officials said they were concerned about this process and were going to try the online lottery for at least one year. Parents can begin signing up for the lottery on Oct. 24, according to WLWT-TV's Ben Petracco.

Part of the "unfairness" of the camp-out process, says Frankie Jupiter of WXIX-TV, is that many parents were unable to participate in the campouts due to work or family obligations.

Still, many parents are not convinced.

"We just feel really tricked here. They switch the policy here on us after we spent all this money to move. We were counting on this. We have no idea where we're [going to] send our daughter now," said parent Betsy Sunderman.

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