What would Wake County's magnet schools look like if they lost those programs and were only populated by the students who live near them?
That's a question that school administrators tried to answer last week for school board members reviewing the magnet program. This chart indicates that many magnet schools, particularly those inside the Raleigh Beltline, would have higher percentages of minority and free-and-reduced lunch (FRL) students if only populated by proximity students.
You can see a big demographic difference from the magnet population going to the schools and the base population being assigned out.
What staff did was draw a large enough circle around the magnet schools to get an enrollment that's roughly equal to what it had last school year. Since several magnet schools are so close, there is overlap in the enrollments.
Washington Elementary's enrollment could be 92 percent minority and 84.1 percent FRL if populated just by proximity students. Last school year, it was 67.7 percent minority and 22.1 percent FRL with the magnet program.
But the difference is even more noticeable when you look at the specific racial demographics. Based on proximity assignment, Washington could be 55 percent black, 34 percent Hispanic, eight percent white and 1 percent Asian. With the magnet last school year, it was 35 percent Asian, 32 percent white, 17 percent black and 12 percent Hispanic.
A similar pattern can be seen at Enloe High, which could have been 71 percent black, 14 percent Hispanic, 9 percent white and 2 percent Asian as a proximity-only school. The FRL percentage could have been 66 percent.
But last school year with the magnet program, Enloe was 39 percent black, 31 percent white, 14 percent Asian and 10 percent Hispanic. The school's FRL percentage was 34 percent.
On the flip side, schools like Brooks Elementary saw little difference between their actual and proximity percentages. In cases where the school's FRL percentage didn't change much with the magnet program, especially if it would remain low, it could be more likely to be demagnetized.
The demographic information seemed to be especially appreciated by the school board's Democratic members. Board member Jim Martin, who hasn't been hesitant about criticizing what he considered to be less than useful data from staff, said it was a very helpful analysis for the board to use when it makes magnet decisions.