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Published: Wednesday, 9/21/2005

TPS says free uniforms not for charter school students

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Some parents who choose to send their children to charter rather than traditional schools have been trying to get free uniforms from Toledo Public Schools, officials said yesterday.

The district so far has rejected about 50 free uniform applications on which parents wrote that their child attends a Toledo Public Schools building though, in fact, attending a charter school, spokesman Jane Bruss said yesterday.

The district recently posted a sign at its administration building telling parents that charter school children are not eligible for its free uniform program.

Last school year, the school district enacted a mandatory uniform policy for all elementary school students. It was extended to junior high schools this year, and will be expanded to high schools next year.

When parents send children to charter schools, which are public but can be operated by private firms, state funding for those students shifts from the traditional school district to the charter school.

Many charter schools also require student uniforms or have dress codes.

Thomas Williams, school leader at Paul Laurence Dunbar Academy, 331 14th St., said students are restricted to three colors: tan, navy blue, and white. The shirts must have a collar, and the school also sells shirts with its logo.

"The basic concept is dress for success and, as long as they are neat and in those colors, we are pretty tolerable," he said.

Bernard Crawford, school leader at Toledo Accelerated Academy, said all 150 students at the charter school are required to wear uniforms.

"It is a white shirt with a collar and sleeves, black pants for boys," Mr. Crawford said. "For girls, it is black shorts, skirts, dresses, or pants."

Nearly 6,000 Toledo Public Schools families were approved for free uniforms last year. So far this year, the district has processed more than 3,500 applications, and parents can reapply for free uniforms each year, Ms. Bruss said.

Lucas County Job and Family Services is providing up to $600,000 for the uniforms.

The program extends to families who have a household income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. A family of four falls below the poverty level if the annual household income is less than $18,850.

Families qualify if they have a current Medicaid card or WIC card or receive publicly funded child care from Lucas County, food stamps, or Ohio Works First benefits.

Officials said four sets of uniforms cost about $120 and would be adequate for an entire school year.

In Toledo Public Schools, the uniform colors are white, light blue, dark blue, and yellow for tops, and dark blue, navy, khaki, and tan for bottoms. Girls must wear a blouse or polo shirt with a collar, or a turtleneck and a skirt, jumper, slacks, knee-length shorts, or a skirt.

Boys are required to wear a dress shirt, turtleneck, or a polo or oxford button-down shirt with a collar, and pants or knee-length shorts. The policy requires solid colors for tops, bottoms, and sweaters or vests.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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