Charter Schools Combatting Urban Flight

It’s easy to seek out the urban life when you’re young and without dependents. But what happens when children come along? Many people seek better schools elsewhere. But as the experience of Cleveland shows, offering people choices in schooling makes cities more livable.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

After a rocky start, charter schools — independent, tuition-free schools that are publicly funded but privately operated — are taking root in Ohio neighborhoods.

Though some charters have been plagued by dismal test scores and fiscal chaos, the best have emerged as anchors in communities where parents had once given up on public schools.

[snip]

Though half of the students are in the free lunch program, 85 percent of students in the third grade passed the state’s reading test.

A member of the city council struck the right note: “Catholic, charter, public — as a councilman, I don’t want to pick who I support. I support them all.”

But are charter schools benefiting just students they enroll? No.

Charter schools also appear to be leveraging changes in public school districts. The Cleveland city schools, for example, have established single-gender academies and have plans for other specialty schools to keep the district competitive in the education marketplace.

“Parents are choosing certain kinds of options,” Cleveland schools Chief Executive Eugene Sanders said last fall. “People go for their perception of safety, their perception of a more vibrant kind of academy environment. We have to do a better job of communicating and responding.”

And about the community benefit?

“When Citizens’ Academy surveyed its parents, more than 40 percent said the school — consistently among the state’s top performers — played an integral role in their decision to remain in Cleveland. To Perry White, the East Side charter school’s director, that means successful schools are as much an economic development issue as an education issue.”

Source: “Successful charter schools giving families reason to stay in Cleveland, January 28”

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