Enrollment continues free fall in Youngstown public schools

By Harold Gwin

The city district has lost about 270 students since the 2008-09 school year ended in June.

YOUNGSTOWN — There are some 10,000 school-age children living in Youngstown, but fewer than 6,500 are in Youngstown City School District classrooms.

Preliminary fall enrollment numbers show Youngstown had 6,493 students as of Wednesday. The official count for state subsidy support won’t be done until the first full week of October.

The rest of the students are enrolled in various charter, open-enrollment or voucher schools, based on a report prepared in January by the school-district treasurer.

That latest enrollment number shows a major drop in students from the official count last fall when Youngstown reported it had 7,253 students. School officials said at that time the number represented a decline of 400 students from the previous year.

However, John T. Allen, district spokesman, said last year’s count turned out to be in error.

Youngstown actually ended the 2008-09 school year in June with 6,760 students enrolled, Allen said.

That indicates there was a larger loss last year than initially reported.

William Johnson, district treasurer, told the school board’s finance committee in January that the loss of students to 69 other educational systems was costing the district nearly $29 million in annual lost state revenue.

His report showed that 3,876 city children were enrolled elsewhere.

The biggest loss was 2,743 students to 30 charter schools, followed by 360 students enrolled in 14 private schools accepting state Educational Choice vouchers. Another 773 were enrolled in 25 open-enrollment school districts.

The losses reflected an increase from the 2007-08 school year when 3,562 students were enrolled elsewhere, costing the district $26.4 million in lost state subsidy.

School officials have said that ongoing financial loss has been a factor in Youngstown’s efforts to emerge from state-mandated fiscal emergency.

Efforts launched by the school district to persuade students to return to the city schools through mailings to parents, detailing improvements in district achievement test scores and other venues haven’t been particularly effective.

Those efforts have been hampered by Youngstown being rated in academic watch on its local report card issued by the state for the last several years. The district dropped to academic emergency, the lowest rating, on its 2009 report card issued last month.


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