Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Charter schools draw from 4 areas

Enrollment review finds clusters

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Of the nearly 3,400 Cincinnati students who attend one of the city's 12 charter schools, more than a third come from four city neighborhoods.

        An analysis of charter school enrollment released by Cincinnati Public Schools on Monday found that 36.6 percent of students live in one of four ZIP codes: 45223 (Cumminsville/Northside), 45225 (Fairmount), 45229 (Avondale) and 45237 (Roselawn).

        In each of these neighborhoods, more than 250 students choose charter schools over public schools.

  • A.B. Miree Fundamental Academy: 299 black, three multiracial, 17 not indicated.
  • Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy: 379 black, nine multiracial, 12 white, eight not indicated.
  • East End Community Heritage School: 45 black, 87 white, two American Indian, two multiracial, one not indicated.
  • Greater Cincinnati Community Academy: 537 black, 12 white, six Hispanic, four multiracial, 15 not indicated.
  • Harmony Community School: 345 black, 51 white, four multiracial, three Hispanic, 10 not indicated.
  • Life Skills Center: 220 black, seven white, two multiracial, two not indicated.
  • Lighthouse Community School: 18 black, 10 white, two multiracial.
  • Oak Tree Montessori: 39 black, 11 white, eight multiracial, one Hispanic.
  • SABIS International: 519 black, four white, 26 multiracial, nine not indicated.
  • TCP World Academy: 227 black, two white, six multiracial, two American Indian, one Hispanic, 35 not indicated.
  • Riverside Community School: 145 black, 146 white, nine multiracial, one American Indian, one Hispanic, four not indicated.
  • W.E.B. DuBois School: 86 black, three white, one multiracial.
  Source: Cincinnati Public Schools.
        The analysis was requested by Board of Education member Catherine Ingram, who said she wanted to see whether the charter schools were attracting students from outside the Cincinnati Public Schools' boundaries.

        “These schools were created to be competitive,” Ms. Ingram said Monday. “I want to be sure we aren't just shifting the numbers around.”

        Charter schools receive public funding from the state but operate separately from local districts. They are run by nonprofit organizations.

        The analysis found more than 80 percent of students enrolled in Cincinnati charter schools are African-American.

        Enrollment figures show 2,859 students are African-American, 345 are white, 76 are multiracial, 12 are Hispanic, five are American Indian and 101 did not indicate their race.

        Directors of the four largest charter schools — Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy, Greater Cincinnati Heritage School, Harmony Community School and SABIS International — could not be reached for comment Monday.

        John Rothwell, Cincinnati's charter school manager, said the racial breakdowns reflect what's happening nationally.

        “It's more socioeconomic than racial,” he said. “Poor folks are exercising options that folks with money always had.”

        He said the distribution of students “is largely geographic.” In other words, if students live close to a charter school, they are likely to attend it, Mr. Rothwell said.

        While there are a host of reasons why parents and students choose charter schools, Ms. Ingram said she is concerned the char ters might simply be taking advantage of the law.

        “My concern is that recruiting allows them to recruit across boundaries, yet (even the number of) non-blacks who opted to come in from other districts is very few,” she said.

        The analysis also showed: Riverside Community School's enrollment is nearly equal between blacks and whites. The East End Community Heritage School is the only charter where a majority of students are white.

        Cincinnati's Board of Education in January approved three new charter schools, making Cincinnati the first district in Ohio to create its own charter schools. Two of those, the East End Community Heritage School and the Lighthouse Community School, opened this year. The ISUS Trade and Technology Prep School has yet to open. Ms. Ingram said she will likely ask for more analysis of charter schools and their impact on the city and its neighborhoods once more financial information is available.

        Under state rules implemented this year, charter schools must make monthly enrollment reports to the state and the public school district in which they operate.

        Because charters receive state funding for each student, such attendance checks allow the home school district to be reimbursed if a student leaves a charter and returns to a public school.

        Cincinnati Public Schools Treasurer Michael Geoghegan said while those monthly reports are coming in, “we haven't been able to approve any of the reports because of discrepancies.”

        Tracking charter student enrollment is proving to be a “huge challenge” he said.

        But the monthly checks are better than last year, when the state paid charters based on early enrollment estimates and made no adjustments throughout the year.

        Mr. Geoghegan said the district expects to receive a refund from the state for money given to charter schools last year after students returned to public schools.


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