Charter Schools

Charter Strongholds Pop Up Around U.S.

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What do Pontiac, Mich.; Youngstown, Ohio; and Buffalo, N.Y., have in common?

Besides rough winters with plenty of snow, those communities host some of the biggest contingents of charter schools in the country.

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A report released last week by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools identifies communities with the largest charter presence. Dubbed the “top 10,” the list grew to 19 communities because of several ties.

Charter schools served at least 13 percent of all public school students in those 19 communities, based on data from the 2005-06 school year.

Typically, the report says, the charter presence is measured in national or state figures that don’t tell the whole story. An oft-cited statistic is that charters serve roughly 2 percent of all public school students nationwide, or about 1 million pupils.

“What’s often neglected is the growing market share of charters in an increasing number of individual communities,” writes Todd M. Ziebarth, the report’s author and a policy analyst for the Washington-based group.

Topping the list is New Orleans, which has seen major growth in its charter sector since Hurricane Katrina struck last year. Charters served 69 percent of public school students enrolled last school year in the storm-crippled city. Dayton, Ohio, came in second, with charters enrolling 28 percent of students. The District of Columbia was third, with 25 percent.

The alliance gathered data in communities with at least 10,000 public school students. Ten of the top 19 communities had fewer than 30,000 students.

Other charter-heavy communities include Chula Vista, Calif.; Toledo, Ohio; and Mohave County, Ariz.

Milwaukee, perhaps best known in school choice circles for its voucher program, also made the list. Its charters served about 15,000 students, or 16 percent, districtwide.

“I think we’ll continue to see more schools up around the 20 percent mark in the next couple of years,” Mr. Ziebarth said in an interview.

Vol. 26, Issue 03, Page 14

Published in Print: September 13, 2006, as Charter Strongholds Pop Up Around U.S.
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