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A magnet program is a program in a public school that usually focuses on a special area of study, such as science, the performing arts, or career education. A magnet school is an entire school with a special focus. These programs and schools are designed to attract students from across a district. Students may choose to attend a magnet school instead of their local school.

School districts set up magnet programs and schools for different reasons. Some of those reasons are:

  • to offer educational choices to students;
  • to create a more balanced student population in a district;
  • to provide specialized instruction at one or more schools.

The California Department of Education provides assistance to school districts that want to develop magnet programs. However, the state does not offer special funding for these programs.

  • For more information about magnet programs and schools in your area, contact your local school district.
  • The Magnet Programs and Schools - CalEdFacts page provides more detailed information about magnet programs and schools.
  • The links and information below were developed for educators and others who are directly involved with magnet programs and schools.

Magnet Programs and Schools

Magnet programs and schools are designed by local authorities to attract parents, guardians, and students who are free to choose, subject to local rules, the school in which they enroll. These programs and schools are established by district Governing Boards. A Governing Board can make a wide range of choices depending upon the needs, demands, board purposes, and available funding. Magnet schools and programs include those that provide unique instruction in the arts, in various sciences, and in career education. Others reflect a district strategy to achieve racial and ethnic balance, generally with the benefit of federal funding. When one or more magnets are established at a particular school, students from across the district may select the magnet subject to available space. Often school districts publish a list explaining their magnet options.

There is no state financial support for magnets as such. Magnet schools and schools with magnet programs receive the regular funding for instruction. The federal government provides limited support in the form of grants to school districts that apply for a portion of the available national funding directly from the U.S. Department of Education.


Questions: Dan Sackheim | | 916-445-5595 
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, August 6, 2014

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