Thursday, April 07, 2005

As Goes Dayton So Goes The Charter School Movement 

Sam Dillon of the New York Times has a fascinating article today about the explosive growth of charter schools in Dayton, Ohio. 50 charters have opened in this city of 166,000 people, which equals the number of such schools that are in operation in the entire state of New Jersey with a population 10 times larger. 26% of Dayton school children now attend a charter.

"Never in a million years did I think we'd end up with 50 charters in a community of this size," said Gail Littlejohn, a former corporate lawyer who supported charter schools as part of a menu of changes when she was elected president of Dayton's Board of Education in 2001. "We're developing two complete and competing public systems."
What it seems has not happened in Dayton so far is an increase in quality education:

Educators across the nation are watching Dayton because it is one of the few places where charter schools have come to seriously rival the public system. Supporters of charter schools, while acknowledging that quality has been a disappointment so far, say the schools have given parents new educational choices. Critics of the movement say Dayton has become a playground for entrepreneurs who are proficient at obtaining government planning grants and marketing their schools through television campaigns but who are mediocre educators.
The Mayor of the City has called for a moratorium on the creation of new schools but it looks like this is an impossible act since the State legislature has given over 60 school districts, universities, and other entities the ability to grant charters.

Friends of Choice in Urban Schools estimates that 21% of Washington D.C. school children now attend a charter. So the nation's capital is now at a similar tipping point to that of Dayton. Get ready for articles just like this one by Mr. Dillon to appear in our local papers.

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