вторник, 10 июня 2008 г.

New state voucher program pulled nearly 100 children out of city schools

More than 3,500 of the city's schoolchildren have chosen not to continue their education in the city school system this year.

They've opted to enroll in one of nearly two dozen charter schools, take classes at other public schools through the state's open-enrollment program or secure a state voucher to attend a local private school.

The number represents nearly an 18 percent increase over the number of pupils who chose to go elsewhere last year. The voucher program, which pulled nearly 100 children from the Youngstown schools this year, wasn't available last year.

Current enrollment in the city schools stands at 8,215, down from 8,875 a year ago.

The loss of 3,535 pupils will cost the district around $24 million in lost state subsidies this year.

State subsidies follow the pupils and go to the schools they choose to attend.

The biggest loss for Youngstown is to 23 charter schools, seven of them online Internet schools. The district reports that 2,730 of its pupils are in charter schools this year, up nearly 400 from last year.

The charter schools are also getting the bulk of the subsidy money lost by Youngstown. The district estimates that amount at just over $20 million.

Open enrollment, which allows school districts to accept pupils from neighboring school systems, or from across the state if they choose, took 713 pupils out of Youngstown this year. That's only a slight increase from the 700 who participated in open enrollment last year.

The cost to Youngstown this year is more than $4.3 million.

The voucher program implemented this fall allows pupils in public schools ranked by the state as being academically troubled to enroll in a private school willing to accept them.

The pupils must meet the private school's academic and other requirements, and the state voucher picks up the cost of their tuition.

The state put three of Youngstown's schools -- West Elementary, Hayes Middle and Wilson High -- into the voucher program, and the district reports losing 92 pupils to vouchers at a cost of around $500,000 in subsidies.

The district launched a "We Want You Back" campaign this fall in an effort to get some of those 3,535 children back, putting a lot of emphasis on recent academic improvements, pointing out the district improved from academic emergency to academic watch and nearly reached continuous improvement on the state local report card for 2006.

One of its schools, the Youngstown Early College High, achieved an academic excellence rating this year.

The drive also focuses on academic and artistic achievements made by individual pupils and teams of pupils in various competitions.

The ongoing project to rebuild or replace 14 school buildings is also seen as a draw to get children back as well.

Some parents have pulled their children out of the city schools in disputes over disciplinary matters, said Dr. Wendy Webb, superintendent.

One of her plans is to hold community meetings with parents of those children to look at what the district can do to help children understand what is expected of them and what behavior is acceptable.

Parents and the community have to be a part of the solution, Webb said.

She also intends to hold meetings with teachers and staff seeking feedback and strategies to bring children back.

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