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Argument: Charter schools are damaging private schools

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Scott Elliott. "The case against charter schools in Dayton". Dayton Daily. November 12, 2005 - "unexpectedly, charters have also devastated private schools. The trend line is stark. Private schools were having a strong decade in the 1990s. Many hit 10-year enrollment peaks in 1999, just as charter were getting off the ground.

Five years later, private school enrollment was collapsing — better than three-quarters hit 10-year enrollment lows. I just pulled updated private school enrollment data last week — since 2003, 18 of 20 Dayton private schools saw enrollment drops. This is no coincidence.

Catholic schools are discussing widespread consolidations and closings. And last year, Dayton Christian Schools — one of the nation’s largest and most successful networks of private Christian schools — closed its two Dayton campuses and fled to the suburbs after more than 25 years here, mostly motivated by enrollment declines.

The city school district’s share of school age children in Dayton has dropped some, from just over 60 percent to 57 percent, in six years. But the private schools have taken an even bigger hit — down from 24 percent to 19 percent. Charter schools are now the second choice for Dayton families after the school district.

With the trends showing no sign of relenting — charter growth in combination with private school decline, I am forced to wonder if in the end the city will largely replace its private school options with charter options instead.

Doesn’t that seem like a bad idea? Catholic schools have been producing well-trained students in Dayton for 100 years. Dayton Christian also established a solid reputation over more than 25 years. Are we trading in that known quantity for the unknown? Charters have much shorter and much less distinguished track records.

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