Sep 21, 2023 - News

Richmond school board adopts new diversity plan for specialty schools

Illustration of a green apple surrounded by red apples.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The city school board is moving forward with a plan to increase diversity in its specialty schools.

What's happening: The board voted 8-1 earlier this week to overhaul the application process to guarantee that at least 50% of available seats go to economically disadvantaged students.

Why it matters: An internal review found large disparities in the demographics of students admitted to sought-after schools.

  • For instance, of the 205 kids RPS sends to Maggie Walker Governor's School, 78% are white, even though white students make up just 11% of the district's total enrollment.

Details: Under the new rules, three spots will be reserved for the top-scoring applicants at each RPS middle school, per WTVR.

  • Subsequent spots would go to the highest-scoring economically disadvantaged students until 50% of the seats are filled.
  • From there, the remaining seats would go to the top-scoring students regardless of school or economic status.

What we're watching: The plan drew strong opposition from parents who send their kids to private school or homeschool, who would compete for a maximum of eight total spots at each school.

  • One family warned the board ahead of the vote that they would pursue legal action, WTVR reported.
  • "This will disenfranchise the middle class," attorney Charles Frankenhoff told the school board.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to show that private school and homeschooled students would compete for eight total spots under the new plan, not three.


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