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Magnet Programs and Schools

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 unique 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 guidance to school districts that choose 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 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. Magnet schools and schools with magnet programs receive 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.

Magnet School Program Newsletters
Quarterly newsletters for magnet schools and schools with magnet programs.

Creating Successful Magnet School Programs External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
Available from the U.S. Department of Education, this fourth book in the Innovations in Education series identifies six school districts whose successful magnet programs offer a range of contexts, experiences, and perspectives.

Magnet Programs and Schools - CalEdFacts
Part of California Department of Education's information and media guide about education in the State of California. For similar information on other topics, visit the full CalEdFacts.

Magnet Programs and Schools Listserv
Join the Magnet Programs and Schools listserv to receive information, resources, and other relevant materials.

U.S. Department of Education Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) External link opens in new window or tab.
The Federal MSAP provides grants to eligible local educational agencies to establish and operate magnet schools.

Magnet Schools Assistance Program, Technical Assistance Center External link opens in new window or tab.
With a focus on diversity, academic excellence, and equity, the MSAP Center supports the U.S. Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education as it provides equity and choice in public education through the MSAP. The website offers tools, information, and strategies to assist in planning, implementing, and revising magnet programs.

Magnet Schools of America (MSA) External link opens in new window or tab.
MSA is a national nonprofit professional education association whose members are schools and school districts.  The association represents and is a resource to magnet schools, parents, teachers, school boards, administrators, business leaders, community organizations and institutions of higher education.

Questions:   Educational Options Office |
Last Reviewed: Friday, September 1, 2023