As the Minneapolis school board gathers today to discuss plans for a projected surge in enrollment that will require them to reopen vacated schools, two recent reports suggest the district still faces challenges attracting students who live in the city.
Nearly 10,000 students in the city of Minneapolis chose charter schools or suburban districts over the Minneapolis Public Schools last year, according to data compiled by the district and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
District data shows that 2,129 city students participated in the 'Choice is Yours' program during the 2010-11 school year, with hundreds more students opting for schools in Robbinsdale and Columbia Heights than Edina and Eden Prairie.
A study by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools found that 7,761 Minneapolis students chose charter schools last year, representing an 18 percent 'market share' of the district's students.
That adds up to 9,890 students who opted against the Minneapolis schools, not including families who choose private education. But that number could dwindle as suburban districts move to limit their 'Choice is Yours' enrollment and charter schools face increasing financial strain, and the threat of closure, under the state's funding system.
The 'Choice is Yours' allows Minneapolis students to attend nine suburban districts -- Columbia Heights, Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Richfield, Robbinsdale, St. Anthony, St. Louis Park, and Wayzata. It was part of a deal with the state to settle an NAACP lawsuit, which claimed that Minneapolis students were being denied an adequate education. The data from last school year shows that more than a quarter of the students --650 -- had never enrolled in Minneapolis, meaning they didn't even give the district a chance before going elsewhere.
Minneapolis and St. Paul are among the 30 districts nationwide with the highest percentage of students enrolled in charters, but are far behind the leaders, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
An estimated 70 percent of students in New Orleans choose charters, many of which emerged after Hurricane Katrina swept through in 2005, ravaging the city and its schools. Washington, D.C. (39 percent), Detroit (37 percent), Kansas City, Mo. (35 percent), Flint, Mi. (32 percent) and Gary, Ind. (30 percent) joined New Orleans among districts with least 30 percent of public school students enrolled in charter schools.
Overall, Minneapolis and St. Paul are 29th and 32nd respectively in charter school enrollment, the study found.
The executive director of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, Eugene Piccolo, pegs enrollment in Minneapolis' 30 public charter schools at closer to 10,000 students, meaning that hundreds of families bring their children to the city from the suburbs.
Update: The district's 2010-11 enrollment peaked at 32,663 students, according to this report.
Here's a look at the Minneapolis schools 'Choice is Yours' enrollment data and the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools report: