President Reagan advocated greater competitiveness in public education and said Wednesday that he will ask Congress for more money for so-called magnet schools.
Reagan went to Suitland High School, in Washington's suburban Prince George's County, to applaud the magnet school program as "one of the great success stories of the education reform movement."
He spoke of how student performance had improved since Suitland High became such a school. "It wasn't so long ago that Suitland High School had its problems, bad problems," Reagan told students and faculty.
Low Academic Performance
The audience roared when Reagan said bad times in the past at the school were marked by "low academic performance, vandalism, poor attendance--by both students and teachers alike."
Reagan announced that in the budget for fiscal 1989, which begins Oct. 1, he will ask Congress to increase money for the magnet school program from $72 million to $115 million.
The program was instituted in 1985 as an alternative to mandatory busing for schools under court orders to desegregate. The theory behind magnet schools is that they would have broad curricula, offering programs unavailable elsewhere, to lure students of all races.
The request for funds represents a 60% increase over current financing. But eligibility for participation by school districts would no longer be limited to those under desegregation orders.
Suitland High School has nearly 2,100 students, of which 89% are black and 11% white. Magnet programs were instituted in the county school system in the 1985-86 school year, and there are 11 magnet programs for 39 schools in the school district.
Since the program was instituted, the percentage of students with passing scores on writing tests soared from 28% to 87%, officials said. The percentage increased from 60% to 85% on math tests.