QUESTION: How much is Longview ISD paying for billboards and television commercials, etc., advertising LISD as a school of choice? Who exactly is the intended audience for these ads? If it’s students and their families from neighboring districts, isn’t that a form of poaching? (If so, how do other districts feel about that, I wonder.) Do out-of-district students have to pay to attend LISD? How much?

ANSWER: The district is working on a total $248,912 marketing campaign paid for by federal grant funds.

Longview ISD operated under a federal desegregation order from 1970 until June 2018, at which point the district approved a voluntary desegregation plan. In 2017, the district was chosen to receive a five-year, $14.8 million Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish five magnet schools within the district. That grant is all about continuing desegregation through efforts designed to improve educational offerings in Longview ISD and lure students to the district — students who previously transferred from there to other local districts, students who attend private schools or who are home-schooled, or students who live in other districts and who would transfer to Longview ISD. (That’s according to the district’s application for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant.) The district’s marketing campaign is paid for with that grant money.

Here’s a description of the grant program’s purpose:

“The Magnet Schools Assistance program provides grants to eligible local educational agencies to establish and operate magnet schools that are operated under a court-ordered or federally approved voluntary desegregation plan. These grants assist in the desegregation of public schools by supporting the elimination, reduction, and prevention of minority group isolation in elementary and secondary schools with substantial numbers of minority group students. In order to meet the statutory purposes of the program, projects also must support the development and implementation of magnet schools that assist in the achievement of systemic reforms and provide all students with the opportunity to meet challenging academic content and student academic achievement standards. ...”

Longview ISD’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Ross, sent me the following statement by email when I inquired about the marketing campaign:

“The purpose of the campaign is to educate the Longview and surrounding areas about the ‘School Of Choice’ program and what we have to offer through our campuses. Another reason for the campaign is to educate the Longview area about the positive aspects of our district that might not be told in all media outlets or those who might only focus on the negative of our district,” she said. “We are working with Encore Multimedia to help with all the aspects of our School Of Choice campaign and the money being spent is money that we are required to use through our federal grant. .... Your readers can rest at ease knowing no funds are being taken out of the classrooms or away from teachers (and that) we are doing what is required by the grant.”

Ross said the campaign includes “social media, CBS 19, KLTV, on Hulu and Netflix and Regal Hollywood Studios.”

Finally, Longview ISD does not charge for transfer students.

You had additional parts to your question, but I’ll have to address those at a later time.

And if you’re reading this online, I’ve attached the $248,912 contract the board of trustees approved this year with Encore for the marketing campaign, as well as its grant application.

I’ll close with a few points made in the district’s grant application:

”(LISD) has a current enrollment of 8,651 students (down from 8,852 in 2012)

”LISD is land-locked in the west by Gladewater ISD and north by White Oak ISD, Pine Tree ISD, and Spring Hill ISD, in the east by Hallsville ISD, and in the south by Kilgore ISD and Ore City ISD. Many LISD students enroll as transfer students to these contiguous districts and this MSAP project hopes to reclaim them, as well as students attending private and parochial schools and home-schoolers.”

”According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Longview is 74,902 and serves as the county seat of Gregg County, which has a population of 115,649. Minority residents constitute 30% of the city population and 34% of the Gregg County population, while within LISD the minority student population is 79.5%.”

”Pursuing the implementation of quality magnet programs that personalize instruction for every child will serve to attract non-minority as well as affluent students back into the school system in order to address the African American racial isolation and the growing low (socioeconomic status) isolation in LISD.”

”More than 10,000 potential non-minority public school applicants are in the surrounding bedroom communities of Longview. Additionally, over 1000 non-minority private school applicants live within driving distance of LISD. Because the amount of local funds available is limited to maintaining facility needs and basic supplies, the need for assistance is tremendous if these potential students are to be attracted to the five project magnet schools.”

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