In northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, 126 private schools cater to a population willing to pay for choice in their children's education.
"Three things," said Randy Taylor, principal of Toledo Christian Schools: "the moral and Christian training and great atmosphere and good academics."
Children in nonpublic schools number 17,241 in Lucas County and 31,018 in all 17 counties of northwest Ohio. Public school enrollment is 69,947 in Lucas County and 224,401 in the northwest Ohio counties.
Local private school administrators say the demand for private education continues to be strong for Catholic, Lutheran, and Protestant Christian schools now operating in the area.
And two schools educating children in the Jewish and Muslim faiths have expanded modestly in Toledo.
The Hebrew Academy in Sylvania Township added a middle school this year, with 10 students in the seventh grade and eight students in sixth grade, with plans to expand it to eighth grade next year.
A private school for Toledo's Muslim population, the Toledo Islamic Academy on Secor Road, is in its fourth year. The school, now K-12, charges between $2,400 and $3,000 annually, depending on the grade level.
Having an Islamic school in an area that attracts growing numbers of immigrants from the Arabic countries is a plus for the region, principal Mustafa Albar said.
"There are a lot of people coming to the state by checking that they have a private school related to the religion of Islam," Mr. Albar said. "I got a couple of calls from overseas asking do we have a school of Islam or not."
Maumee Valley Country Day School provides a private nonsectarian education at tuition ranging from $7,550 for kindergarten to $10,550 for a 12th-grader.
Catholic parochial schools constitute the biggest bloc of private schools in the region. Tuition in the schools range from as low as $700 at St. Martin de Porres in Toledo's central city to $1,450 a year at St. Joseph Elementary School in Sylvania.
St. Joseph's in Sylvania maintains a near-capacity enrollment of 772 students. Continuous marketing keeps students coming in, as does the quality of the program, Principal Sally Koppinger said.
"I don't think they are alternatives to public education," Mrs. Koppinger said of the many faith-based schools. "One of the things that parochial schools in this diocese work to maintain is a Catholic identity and not a private school identity."
Debra Schaefer, a member of the bishop's advisory council on education, said the Catholic schools continue to have a base of support.
"Catholic education continues to provide a great resource to our community not only because of the strong academic programs it offers but also because of the values-based curriculum and teaching that they provide to the kids," said Mrs. Schaefer.
She said the biggest issue facing private education is the salary and benefits for teachers. "We've got some pretty good teachers and that's a source that the public schools regularly go to," said Mrs. Schaefer whose children attend St. Joseph's Elementary School and St. John's Jesuit High School.
The Catholic schools are trying a variety of strategies to combat the rising costs.
Last year, the Northwest Ohio Children's Scholarship Fund began offering scholarships to private school students. The scholarship fund, matched by the national Children's Scholarship Fund, awarded 840 four-year scholarships totaling $553,794 to families attending local private elementary schools.
The largest recipients of scholarships were Rosary Cathedral parochial school and First Church of God Christian School.
Richard LaValley, Jr., president of the Northwest Ohio Scholarship Fund, said, "I think faith-based education is important to many parents. That's not to be negative or bad about public schools. I think if there were more scholarships at the grade school level you'd see enrollment go up."
Among secondary schools in the Toledo area, there are six Catholic high schools: St. John's Jesuit, St. Francis de Sales, St. Ursula, Notre Dame, Cardinal Stritch, and Central Catholic. Outside Toledo, there are eight Catholic high schools.
Some recent efforts to expand haven't panned out.
Calvary Christian in South Toledo eliminated its seventh and eighth grades this year for lack of enrollment.
And Toledo Christian School off the Anthony Wayne Trail in South Toledo shelved plans to open a branch campus in Oregon because there wasn't enough interest.
"We met several times with parents and we did not have enough critical mass to start it," Mr. Taylor said. "But we did incorporate about 20 students from that area into the present school." Toledo Christian has 810 students this year, up 50 over last year, he said.
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