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Published: Tuesday, 2/28/2006

City schools enrollment dips to 30,135

Toledo Public Schools officials announced yesterday that the district's enrollment this academic year has dipped even lower than previously thought, reaching very near the 30,000 mark.

The main reason, they said, was because parents are increasingly choosing charter schools.

At the same time, the Toledo Board of Education tonight will consider whether to take on sponsorship of the Alliance Academy of Toledo, a troubled charter school that is being released from its contract with the Lucas County Educational Service Center because of poor academic performance.

Nearly all of the 350 children who attend the school at 1501 Monroe St. are previous Toledo Public students.

District Treasurer James Fortlage said TPS now has 30,135 students. Earlier this school year, the figure was estimated at 30,774. Last year there were 32,879 students. The previous year the number was 33,866.

Mr. Fortlage announced the updated figures during the board's finance committee meeting yesterday.

"The biggest variable [in the district's budget] is enrollment," he said. "That drives our state foundation aid."

The district has predicted a $19 million budget deficit for the 2006-2007 school year, and the enrollment decline is the principle reason for the shortfall. Sixty percent of Toledo Public Schools' funding comes from the state and is directly related to the number of students and whether they are in regular classes or special education.

Last year, Toledo Public lost $37.6 million in subsidies because of the number of parents choosing charter schools. The district could lose $45.7 million this year, Mr. Fortlage said.

Each lost student generally means a loss of about $3,500 in basic aid per pupil, but the district receives substantially more for special-education students.

Toledo Public Schools has closed some school buildings because of the enrollment drop and is expected to close more.

Board member Larry Sykes stressed that no specific schools have been targeted for closure.

Mr. Sykes said he fears demoralizing teachers, students, and parents - especially during the March state standardized testing period - if they are told too early what schools are slated to close.

Board President Darlene Fisher suggested each board member meet with Superintendent Eugene Sanders for a "confidential" meeting on the possible school closings.

Regarding the sponsorship of the Alliance Academy of Toledo, Ms. Fisher said she was unsure if it is a wise move considering the amount of criticism TPS administrators have lodged against charter schools.

"It does send a mixed message," Ms. Fisher said. "I question the short term of going after the dollars rather than recruiting [those students] back."

As a sponsor, Toledo Public Schools would be permitted to charge the charter school up to 3 percent of the state funding received.

Toledo Public Schools now sponsors Brigadoon Academy, Phoenix Academy, Polly Fox Academy, Imani Learning Academy, and Toledo School for the Arts.



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