Thursday, March 02, 2006

Black flight 

Katherine Kersten takes her message from the StarTribune to the WSJ this morning, detailing the decline of the Minneapolis public school system, particularly for black parents:
In 1999-2000, district enrollment was about 48,000; this year, it's about 38,600. Enrollment projections predict only 33,400 in 2008. A decline in the number of families moving into the district accounts for part of the loss, as does the relocation of some minority families to inner-ring suburbs. Nevertheless, enrollments are relatively stable in the leafy, well-to-do enclave of southwest Minneapolis and the city's white ethnic northeast. But in 2003-04, black enrollment was down 7.8%, or 1,565 students. In 2004-05, black enrollment dropped another 6%.
Crediting "state's longstanding commitment to school choice," Kersten explains that charter schools and open enrollment have given low-income parents choices, and those parents are choosing charter schools.
While about 1,620 low-income Minneapolis students attend suburban public schools, most of the fleeing minority and low-income students choose charter schools. Five years ago, 1,750 Minneapolis students attended charters; today 5,600 do. In 2000-01, 788 charter students were black; today 3,632 are. Charters are opening in the city at a record pace: up from 23 last year to 28, with 12 or so more in the pipeline.
The column is part of what I see as a concerted effort to take education away from the DFL in Minnesota as their issue. Meanwhile, charters that look more and more like the best private schools are springing up, such as Beacon Preparatory. I have long been concerned about the viability of charter schools, burdened with a great deal of regulation. But Kersten's article indicates that there is a bull market in charter schools, and that demand for them may come from unexpected sources.