The IPS Magnet School Conundrum

Matthew Gonzales:

Three years ago, my wife and I moved downtown for the typical reasons: to enjoy the amenities of urban living; to be closer to interesting arts, dining, and nightlife opportunities; and to live among people who shared what we imagined were our socially progressive values.

We also had our eye on a downtown elementary school for our two young sons: Center for Inquiry 2, a highly regarded Indianapolis Public Schools magnet that offers the prestigious International Baccalaureate program. Several of our friends already sent their kids there, and they assured us it was a fantastic school.

Enrollment at CFI (and all IPS magnets) is lottery-based and governed by rules that give some families an edge over others. For example, hopefuls who live in a “priority zone” around a magnet school get an advantage, as do those who have a child already attending the school of their choice.

We first played the magnet lottery when we enrolled our oldest son in pre-kindergarten—a process that’s playing out in thousands of Marion County homes this month. Since CFI 2 doesn’t have a pre-K program, we made CFI 27—a duplicate of CFI 2 in the nearby Kennedy-King neighborhood—our first choice on the lottery application. But we didn’t get in. Instead, we got ou