Stemming the tide

District schools in Columbus, Ohio, are finally exploring ways to bring students back into the fold. Why now? Because the exodus of students to charter schools is hitting the district in its pocketbook. Last spring, the district set its budget for 2005-2006 based on an estimate of 6,200 students taking the charter option. But so far this year, it's looking more like 7,100 students. This means the district will have to tap into reserves to cover a looming budget shortfall. (In Gadfly's hometown of Dayton, at least 30 percent of the kids are enrolled in charter schools.) Columbus school board member Jeff Cabot thinks the school system can rally. "We're going to fight for kids and offer what parents want. We'll get them back." Among their methods for fighting back is changing the way Columbus delivers education. The district is investigating the popular schools-within-a-school model for possible adoption at some institutions. And this year, Columbus is offering three single-sex schools, "a direct response to thriving single-sex charter schools," according to the Columbus Dispatch. With so many districts "fighting back" against charters by pulling dirty tricks (see here), it's heartening to see Columbus fight the old-fashioned and honorable way—by competing. (If dirty tricks are also afoot in the capital of the Buckeye State, we trust that concerned readers will inform us.)

"Columbus schools trying to analyze, predict charter exodus," Associated Press, Dayton Daily News October 13, 2005

"Battle for Columbus Students: Charter Exodus Pains District," by Jennifer Smith Richards, Columbus Dispatch, October 1, 2005

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