Time: Thu Oct 02 08:47:40 1997
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Date: Thu, 02 Oct 1997 08:40:55 -0700
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From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: Bailing Out of Gov't Schools (fwd)
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>Some Districts Reacting To Threat of Competition
>By Rene Sanchez Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, October 1, 1997;
>Page A01 The Washington Post 
>In a movement flustering schools across the nation, more parents than ever
>are choosing alternatives to public education for their children, so much
>that what once seemed only a fad to many educators is instead starting to
>resemble a revolution.
>Charter schools are expanding at a breakneck pace. Religious schools are
>overflowing with new students. Home schooling is attracting unprecedented
>numbers of parents who only a few years ago would never have dreamed of
>teaching their own children.
>Those migrating from public education say the roots of their disenchantment
>vary. Some parents are frustrated with bureaucracy, others fear student
>violence. Some want their children to spend more time learning values,
>others call the one-size-fits-all model of most large public schools an
>ineffective and impersonal way to learn.
>"There are so many reasons," said Carol Crabtree, whose two children once
>attended a traditional public school but are now enrolled in Blue Ridge
>Christian School in Bridgewater, Va. "Public schools have to be all things
>to all people, and I think many parents are starting to look for much more
>than that."
>Not long ago, many public school officials virtually ignored that sentiment
>and scoffed at the growth of other options in education. But today those
>trends have begun to send a powerful message to public schools, even
>prompting some of them to acknowledge a threat of competition for the first
>In Michigan this fall, public schools that have lost hundreds of students to
>new charter schools, which get taxpayer money but set their own teaching
>rules, have responded by creating all-day kindergarten classes as an
>enticement to wary parents. Others are featuring new enrichment programs for
>students, such as ballet, to compete with alternative schools. Some are even
>writing letters asking parents who have left the public school system to
>In Arizona, a state with rising interest in home schooling and more charter
>schools than any other state, one large public school district, in Mesa, has
>gone as far as placing full-page ads in local newspapers to win back
>grousing parents.
>"We can't assume anymore that everyone is just going to come to our
>schools," said Judy Willis, the district's director of community relations.
>"It's a whole new arena."
>Some of the story can be told in numbers: In 1992, there was one charter
>school in the entire nation. Today, there are more than 800. The Clinton
>administration intends to spend $100 million to help develop as many as
>3,000 of them by the year 2000.
>Home schooling is also flourishing. Researchers at the Education Department
>say the number of students being taught at home has tripled this decade and
>now exceeds 1 million. A new industry is emerging from that growth, complete
>with mail-order curricula, computer learning programs, even centers that
>offer home schooled children a chance to socialize with each other.
>Meanwhile, enrollment at private academies that emphasize the Bible or
>Christian principles has doubled in the past 10 years. The Association of
>Christian Schools International was formed in 1980 with about 1,200 member
>schools. Now, it includes nearly 4,000 schools across the nation and more
>than 800,000 students.
>Even Catholic schools are reversing decades of steep decline in enrollment,
>attracting more non-Catholic parents whose children had been in public
>schools, and expanding well beyond their traditional base -- the center city
>-- into suburbs.
>What all of these changes mean is a subject of growing debate. Some
>educators look at how fast the alternatives to traditional public schools
>are expanding and see signs of profound change ahead. They say the structure
>of public education, created a century ago in the throes of the industrial
>revolution, is antiquated and that parents nationwide seem to be searching
>urgently for new models.
>"We're in the early stages of what could be a very significant shift in how
>many children are educated," said Ted Kolderie, an education analyst at the
>University of Minnesota and one of the nation's leading advocates of charter
>schools. "Right now, we have a 100-year institution resistant to change, and
>people are quite restless with it, so they're heading to entirely new kinds
>of school settings."
>Others contend that even though the popularity of innovations such as
>charter schools seem to be jolting public schools out of decades of torpor,
>their impact is still marginal and may be destined to stay that way. Public
>schools remain the dominant form of education in the country. Nearly 90
>percent of students attend them.
>"This is an important warning signal," said David Tyack, a professor of
>education at Stanford University. "We need to understand why parents are
>turning to these forms of schooling, but most people are not going to
>abandon public education."
>The migration is transcending race, class and geography. Charter schools are
>being opened in wealthy suburbs and in the poorest urban neighborhoods.
>Christian schools, often a refuge a generation ago for whites fleeing
>desegregated public schools, have growing appeal to black families. Home
>schooling, once widely perceived as a dubious form of education used mostly
>by religious zealots, is going mainstream, embraced by an array of
>professionals who are working at home and taking advantage of new computer
>technology that helps children learn.
>Kathleen Moore, a psychotherapist who is home schooling her 7-year-old
>daughter in Boulder, Colo., is one of the new converts. She spent several
>hundred dollars on a mail-order curriculum kit and began work last month.
>She instructs her child every morning in reading, math and science, then has
>her spend a few hours in a new public school program that offers activities
>such as art or music.
>Moore said that one of the main reasons she did not enroll her daughter full
>time in public education this fall was that she feared the large size of
>classes there left teachers with little time to give students personal
>"It seems like more people are willing to give this a try," she said. "I
>don't think every child will flourish at home, and I'm not completely
>against public schools, but I don't subscribe as much anymore to the
>one-size-fits-all model they use. This has nothing to do with religion for
>me. The reasons are much more diverse."
>One of the strongest criticisms of home schooling is that it isolates
>children, but parents nationwide are now addressing that problem. Some are
>banding together to organize field trips, sports leagues and academic
>competitions. In California, a recent conference on home schooling drew
>8,000 families.
>In Amherst, Mass., parents are sending their children to a new center for
>home schoolers opened by Ken Danford, a former public school teacher in
>Prince George's County. Every day, he leads discussions there about current
>events, guides students through academic projects, and organizes internships
>and study groups.
>"Children can learn effectively and passionately outside of a regular
>classroom," Danford said. "The ones we have now are a relatively modern
>Still, many educators say they doubt whether any of the emerging
>alternatives -- if they last -- will do a better job than public schools.
>The results, some say, may be worse. Many of the new Christian schools, for
>example, are not even accredited. And some new charter schools are already
>mired in academic or financial trouble.
>To skeptics, the risks of creating charter schools or turning some public
>schools over to private companies -- another idea many communities are
>studying -- are especially great. Students who go to those schools take
>along the money a public district had been spending on them. Analysts also
>fear that the alternatives are luring the most committed parents from public
>schools and fracturing communities that were once united behind the idea of
>making public education work.
>Richard Elmore, an educator professor at Harvard University, said that even
>though he does not believe the shifts parents are now making in education
>will ever pose a mortal threat to most public schools, he can foresee a time
>when some beleaguered systems in mid-size cities, including Washington,
>D.C., become doomed.
>"There could be some very serious consequences," Elmore said. "If you get a
>bunch of charter schools and a few private education companies in one city,
>and they start attracting thousands of kids, you could lose whatever
>leverage you have left in the system pushing for higher quality."
>Ironically, the growing interest in alternatives to public schools comes as
>many of them are showing signs of progress. Although there is serious
>concern that the problems in urban public education are getting worse,
>student scores in math and science across the nation are rising, and states
>are trying to reduce class size, strengthen curricula or give parents more
>Michigan, for example, is the latest of several states now allowing some
>students to attend any public school in the state, not just the one in their
>neighborhood. Some big-city schools are even trying to break down their
>large, factory-style classes into smaller learning groups.
>But some parents say it's all too little, or too late.
>In Virginia, Crabtree said she was not furious with public schooling when
>she removed her children. She just felt they had been treated as faces in
>the crowd or were bored by the lack of academic challenges. She also said
>she wanted them to have a more spiritual classroom setting. The enrollment
>at Blue Ridge Christian School has tripled to about 250 students this
>decade. Most newcomers had been in public schools.
>"Some of these changes are based on the romantic notion people have of the
>old one-room schoolhouse," said Stanford's Tyack. "People are very hungry
>for that."
>The parents choosing options besides public education share other
>similarities, educators say: They tend to be young and middle class, with
>children just starting school. For those reasons, skeptics say they expect
>many parents to return their children to public schools once they realize
>how difficult home schooling is to manage, or see charter schools failing to
>deliver on their grand promises.
>But others say the emerging shifts in schooling are seismic. And they
>predict that the changes will be even more dramatic if initiatives that give
>students publicly funded tuition vouchers for private schools start to take
>Right now, only two cities -- Cleveland and Milwaukee -- are trying
>vouchers. Several recent polls, however, suggest that support for the
>concept may be growing, particularly among minority parents with children in
>failing urban public schools.
>Lawmakers in Congress and many states are pushing for vouchers, but whether
>using them for Catholic or other religious schools -- most other private
>schools would be too expensive -- is constitutional has not been resolved.
>Also, public school leaders who are experimenting with charter schools and
>even the limited use of private companies in classrooms are still drawing a
>firm line against vouchers.
>Yet some educators say that all the clamor could, in the end, be the force
>needed to make public schools better -- if they heed the message parents are
>sending by their migration and take bolder steps to change.
>"I'm not sure if any of us really know yet where these trends are leading
>us," said Robert Chase, the president of the National Education Association.
>"But it had better make us take a hard new look at what we're doing in
>public education." 
> Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company 

Paul Andrew Mitchell, Sui Juris      : Counselor at Law, federal witness 01
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