Webb: Loss of pupils could have been worse

Pupils enrolled elsewhere are costing the district about 24 million a year.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city schools lost 660 pupils this year, but the superintendent thinks the drop in enrollment could have been worse.
Dr. Wendy Webb said she had anticipated the loss of as many as 750 children as the state's school voucher program was implemented this fall, as well as through open enrollment and children's leaving to attend charter schools.
Webb said she didn't know how badly Youngstown might be affected by the voucher program, which allows parents of children in academically troubled public schools to seek state-financed enrollment in a private school willing to accept them.
Youngstown has three public schools in that category: Wilson High School, Hayes Middle School and West Elementary School.
The enrollment drop "wasn't as dramatic as I thought it would be," she said.
Still, it's a population drop that hits the district hard as each child who chooses to go elsewhere takes state subsidy funds with them.
Youngstown has been facing a declining enrollment for years, and this fall's drop to 8,215 pupils is about 100 larger than the 567 loss experienced a year ago.
The city schools had 9,442 pupils during the official count week in early October 2004. The number dropped to 8,875 in October 2005.
Money lost
Youngstown will lose nearly 24 million in state subsidy funds this year as a result of pupils' choosing to attend school elsewhere. The bulk of that, just over 20 million, is going to charter schools. There are a dozen of them in the immediate Youngstown area alone, according to the Ohio Department of Education, and that doesn't include a number of Internet schools based elsewhere.
The district reports that about 2,600 Youngstown children have opted to attend charter schools this year. That's up 300 from a year ago.
West Elementary School on South Schenley Avenue took one of the hardest hits, losing 120 children and dropping its enrollment to 570. Many of those leaving moved to the newly opened Stambaugh Charter Academy, a K-5 elementary on Donald Avenue, school officials said.
"We do get some back," Webb said, explaining that some children who leave the city schools for charter schools opt to return, frequently because they didn't get what they were promised.
The open enrollment program allows participating school districts to accept pupils from neighboring school districts or from across the state to enroll in classes, account for the additional pupil and revenue losses.
Again, state subsidies follow students to their new schools.
Open enrollment numbers
About 630 Youngstown children are taking advantage of open enrollment this year at a cost of 4.3 million in state subsidies.
Only some 70 children are involved in the voucher program at a cost of just over 400,000 in subsidy funds.
Some children and their families have simply moved out of town.
Effort initiated
Youngstown has launched a "We Want You back" drive designed to bring children back into the city schools, urging parents and pupils to "Take A Look At Us Now!"
The effort cites the district's rise from academic emergency to academic watch and nearly to continuous improvement on the state local report card this year.
The district's Youngstown Early College High School at Youngstown State University achieved an excellent ranking this year.
The drive also focuses on changes made to improve the educational effort, including the ongoing project to rebuild or replace 14 school buildings.
Webb said the campaign has had to take a temporary back seat to the current push to persuade voters to approve a five-year 9.5 mill tax levy on the Nov. 7 election ballot.

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