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Published: Thursday, 10/18/2007

Charters siphon off 18% of TPS students

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Toledo Public School District had 18 percent of its students enrolled in public charter schools last academic year, making it the fifth-largest percentage of any major- market community in the United States, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said yesterday.

Twenty-nine communities placed in the group's Top 10 list - with many ties in percentages - including six Ohio cities, the most of any state.

New Orleans, where many traditional public schools were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, was first on the study's list with 57 percent.

Dayton, Southfield, Mich., and Washington tied for second place, each with 27 percent.

Youngstown was in third with 23 percent, Cleveland and Cincinnati tied for sixth with 17 percent, and Columbus was in 10th place with 13 percent.

There were 6,356 Toledo Public Schools children in charter schools and 29,368 in the district's school buildings.

Allison Perz, executive director of the Ohio Council of Community Schools, was not surprised when told of the study's findings.

"When you look particularly at some of the wrangling and unrest at our traditional public school district, people are, I think, concerned as a general rule and [I] think that they are taking advantage of choice finally," she said.

She noted that the creation of Ohio charter schools through legislation in 1997, and their proliferation in Toledo beginning the following year, compelled Toledo Public Schools to offer new and better programs.

"TPS' Grove Patterson Academy came [because of] a direct threat of Edison Schools coming into Toledo," Ms. Perz said.

Ohio had 76,000 students - the sixth-largest number in nation - enrolled in charter schools. That is 4 percent of the state's public school student population, the report said.

The analysis examined cities with at least 10,000 public school students.

For the 2007-08 school year, about 4,200 charter schools operate in 40 states and the District of Columbia, with about 1.2 million students.

Todd Ziebarth, policy analyst for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said the study was meant to show the popularity of charter schools in urban communities, rather than the country as a whole.

"There obviously is a demand, so it speaks to me that there has been a pent-up demand," Mr. Ziebarth said. "People with money either move out of cities to suburban communities or they pay to send their kids to private school. But the creation of public charter schools allows other people to have some options."

Toledo Public Schools Superintendent John Foley could not be reached for comment.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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