Ohioans continue to beat feet to charter schools

Ohioans continue to vote for charter schools with their feet. Ohio had 76,500 students--4 percent of the state's public school population and the sixth-largest number in nation--enrolled in charter schools, according to the latest rankings from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (see here).

Note: the Ohio Department of Education counts a few more students--76,966 last year and 77,223 in the current school year. Both figures compare with about 60,000 students just two years ago.

The first charter school opened its doors in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1992 and this year about 1.2 million students are enrolled in 4,200 charter schools in 40 states and the District of Columbia. That is up from 1.16 million in about 3,900 schools in the 2006-2007 school year.

Five Ohio cities made the top-10 list of cities with the highest charter-school enrollment. Those cities, with enrollment percentages, are Dayton (27 percent), Youngstown (23 percent), Toledo (18 percent), Cleveland and Cincinnati (17 percent), and Columbus (13 percent).

Enrollment has grown rapidly and reports this year of violence in Cleveland and Toledo and among rival students at Columbus high schools don't help parental unease with public district schools. In Columbus, an estimated 4 percent of public school students attended charters just four years ago.

In Cincinnati, however, school leaders indicate that, while public schools continue to lose students, the drop is not as fast as in previous years because of a leveling off of students moving to charters (see here). The Cincinnati Enquirer reported public district school enrollment of 34,796 students, down 2 percent from the preceding year but less than the 3 percent annual average decline since 2001. This doesn't come as a surprise considering Ohio has a cap on the start-up of new charter schools.

Nationally, New Orleans led the nation with 57 percent of its students enrolled in charter schools, while Dayton, Southfield, Michigan, and Washington, D.C., tied for second. In Dayton, about 6,000 students are enrolled in charter schools, compared to 16,000 in the district.

Other key findings from the report: 32 percent of the respondents reported mandating increased instructional time over their public district contemporaries. And, among reporting charter schools, the average per-pupil cost was $7,155 and the average revenue per-pupil was $6,585, forcing charters to raise funds to bridge the gap. That compares with an average per-student expenditure for district schools in fiscal year 2004 of $8,310 and revenue of $9,518.

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