'Friskolor' pick their students
Magnet schools in Sweden are selecting pupils, sorting out difficult students. A boy with problems is denied entrance to a school, while a girl with good grades is welcome. ”Uppdrag granskning” (literally Mission: Investigation), is a popular Swedish television program that focuses on investigative journalism often using concealed cameras and microphones. The past two weeks they have tackled ”friskolor,” a sort of charter school system instituted in Sweden in 1992, and funded publicly by school vouchers.
”Friskolor” are prohibited from supplementing the public funds with tuition and fees. ”Uppdrag granskning” used two fictive children—a girl with a Swedish name and good grades, and a boy with a foreign-sounding name and bad grades—and then had people from the crew pretending to be the parents calling the different schools.
The investigation showed 27 of the 50 schools approached by the fictive parents accepted the girl or said the prospects for her getting into the school were great, but turned down the boy without further ado. The Swedish Education Act, according to Minister for Education Jan Björklund, is clear as glass: Picking and choosing among prospective students goes against the law. Two of the schools identified in the program are owned by Sweden’s largest concern for ”friskolor,” Academedia. According to Director of Communications Paula Hammerskog, the schools have clearly committed a mistake. But neither Academedia nor the industry in general believes this is a systematic failure. Politician Betty Malmberg, chairwoman of the Education Committee, is calling Friskolornas Riksförbund (the Swedish Association
 of Independent Schools) and the Skolinspektionen (the Swedish Schools Inspectorate) to a crisis meeting. During this meeting Malmberg wants to know how the independent schools in the future will make sure students cannot be turned down. ”This must never be repeated,” says Betty Malmberg to daily Dagens Nyheter. ”To turn down students is a crime against the Swedish law.”