Thursday, January 04, 2001

Education fair shows wide range of choices

CPS, charter, private, Catholic schools unite

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Parents can learn about school choices at a Jan. 27 school fair sponsored by nine local businesses.

        More than 40 public, private, Catholic and charter schools will offerinformation on programs and scholarships.

        The fair is the second planned by Cincinnati City Councilman Phil Heimlich, who helped establish the Riverside Academy and Life Skills Center charter schools.

        “Our purpose is to enable parents to become informed consumers,” Mr. Heimlich said Wednesday.

        “If Cincinnati Public Schools put out the best product, more power to them. If charter schools do, that's fine. But it's unfair to tell inner-city families there is only one place for their children to go.”

Charters growing
        Charter schools receive public funding from the state but operate separately from local districts.

        They are run by nonprofit organizations.

        The number of charter schools — and the numbers of students attending them — is on the rise in Cincinnati and across the nation.

        This year there are 12 charters in Cincinnati, with 3,400 students enrolled. That's up from five charters serving 1,800 students a year ago.

        Nationally, there are 2,069 charters educating 518,069 students.

        The fair, to be held at the Albert B. Sabin Convention Center from 1 to 4 p.m., will feature columnist Walter Williams, Economics Depart ment chairman at George Mason University and a recognized speaker on school choice.

        Cincinnati Radio host Lincoln Ware will be emcee. He said he is participating because while he is in favor of public schools, “I want people to have a choice of where they can send their children to school.”

        There will be booths for 14 Cincinnati Public Schools, nine charter schools, 16 private schools and the city's Catholic schools.

Connecting with parents
        Cincinnati Public Schools support the effort because it is an opportunity to meet with parents and market what the district has to offer, said Jan Leslie, district spokeswoman.

        Cincinnati's Board of Education in January 2000 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 school year. The ISUS Trade and Technology Prep School has yet to open.

        The district started three of its own charter schools as a way to remain competitive in the local education market.

        Cincinnati lawyer Chris Finney said he got involved with the school fair to give parents a way to look at all school options at one time.

        “This is not to create choices other than public schools,” he said, “but to give parents the whole range of choices available to them.”


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