Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School and Fall River's Diman Vocational could be forced to use a lottery system to select future students under a plan adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday.

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley promises to enforce the new admissions standards that he says "promote equitable access" to vocational schools statewide.

The vocational school system has been accused of overlooking minority students, immigrant English learners, poor students, and handicapped students.

The new admissions policies prohibit the consideration of grades, attendance, behavior, and a guidance counselor's recommendation when selecting students to attend the schools.

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Before the vote to adopt the new regulations, Riley told board members, "Last year, we gave the vocational schools an opportunity to make changes, and we didn't feel that they had done a substantial enough job in doing that, and so today we're asking for the ability to intervene, if necessary, to make sure that children get a fair opportunity." According to Riley, that could include a lottery system to select future students.

The new admission policies strip students of any incentive to strive to be their best. Everyone is equal. Someone who works hard to get good grades, attends school every day and behaves could lose a slot to someone who doesn't try at all simply because their skin color or immigration status is all wrong or their parents have too much money in the bank.

This is a new twist on the old failed affirmative action policies and is guaranteed to backfire. State education officials are not promoting excellence, they are promoting quotas.

This could be the demise of the excellent vocational education system in Massachusetts communities such as New Bedford and Fall River. What a shame.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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