It's working in Harlem

Geoffrey Canada has become a bit of
an ed-reform rock star
since he began the Harlem
Children’s Zone
in the 1990s. That initiative provides wraparound
services—including schooling, healthcare, healthy meals, and after-school
activities—for children and their families in a sixty-block square of central
Harlem. And the idea has grown legs across the country (look to the “promise
neighborhoods” initiative for proof). Yet, in Columbus, a similar effort led by
Columbus Collegiate Academy
(one of the top-performing urban schools in the Buckeye State) and the Boys and Girls
Club risks having its legs swept out from under it. (Full disclosure: CCA is a
Fordham-authorized school.) The partners hope to open a new school in a vacant
building near the Boys and Girls Club on the city’s near west side, where
existing middle-school options are paltry. Planning was going smoothly, with
grants and donors lined up to support the CCA-BGCC joint program, until the
state’s biennial budget bill was finalized in late June. Under the new law,
districts no longer have discretion about whom they rent space to. That
decision must now be done by lottery. (Ironically, the change in law is meant
to ensure that charter schools have greater access to vacant district
buildings, as districts have been remiss to rent space to them.) Yet now, CCA
might miss out on this prime school-system real estate, putting the entire
children’s zone partnership—and a much-needed network of services for needy
kids—at risk. And that would be a sad day for Columbus and for its children.

Project
would go beyond school
,” by Jennifer Smith Richards, Columbus Dispatch, August 14, 2011.