Parent: Magnet lottery system 'ensures nothing'

Posted at 1:20 AM, Sep 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-22 01:20:27-04

CINCINNATI — Backlash continues against the Cincinnati Public School Board's recent decision to change the enrollment procedure for its magnet elementary schools, as frustrated parents voiced their concerns and protested outside the board's meeting Monday night.

As first reported at, the school board suspended its policy of reserving some seats at its magnet schools on a first-come, first-served basis in August.

Instead, CPS will start using an online lottery system in October to award students seats while the district works out a long-term policy.

The announced change has met considerable criticism, particularly from parents groups who felt left out of the loop during the decision-making process, many saying a more public dialogue was necessary in making the decision.

In an op-ed written for, one such parent group, Cincinnatians for School Access, acknowledged the previous first-come, first-served basis was flawed but felt the change was made without due process:

(M)any families with pre-school aged children have been thrown into a state of anxiety and confusion.  The change to a lottery comes less than three months before enrollment for the 2016-17 school year.  Clearly, the first-come, first-served system, particularly as it developed in recent years, raised troubling concerns about inequities. But while the system may have exposed inequities, it was simple and transparent, and the school board has yet to come up with a better solution.

That same group rode a school bus to Monday night's meeting before addressing reporters, with one parent berating school board members' statements that the new system is more fair, saying, "The lottery system is not inclusive... It ensures nothing."

HEAR from other parents as they address the Cincinnati Public School Board in the video player above.

But University of Cincinnati Associate Professor of Education Sarah Stitzlein disagrees with the parents groups, saying the first-come, first-served system — which usually consisted of parents camping out in an attempt to win their children seats in the school of their choice — was not fair.

Stitzlein, who herself made the "difficult decision not to camp out" last year, said, "Parent campout as a sign of commitment should not be a prerequisite to high-quality education for any child, otherwise we cannot genuinely fulfill the promise of education as the great equalizer."

Board President Alex Kuhns said it was a decision the board did not make lightly. “I think what we saw tonight was a lot of passion,” he said. “Our parents are passionate about our kids, I understand. I’m a father, a new father.”

But Kuhns also took issue with the accusation that parents were left in the dark. “The board has been working on this issue for quite a long time during public meetings,” he said.

Parents still have the chance to learn more about how the lottery system will work: The last of four information sessions will take place on Thursday night at Price Hill Recreation Center at 959 Hawthorne Avenue.