When Citizens' Academy [a Cleveland charter school] surveyed its parents, more than 40 percent said the school -- consistently among the state's top performers -- played an integral role in their decision to remain in Cleveland. To Perry White, the East Side charter school's director, that means successful schools are as much an economic development issue as an education issue.
"To stem the exodus of families from Cleveland, we must leverage our best public schools -- charter and district -- as catalysts for creating neighborhoods of choice," White said. "The future of our city and region depends on it."
Josipa Peric can vouch for that. Peric, who works as a waitress, has a fourth-grader at Citizens'. Another son graduated from the school two years ago and was awarded a scholarship to attend University School, a prestigious private school.
Peric said she and her husband had planned to leave Cleveland and move to Eastlake with other Croatian immigrants. Through friends, they discovered Citizens' and transferred their two sons there from Catholic school. Now, they plan to stay in town and open a bakery here.
"We were planning to move, too, but the school is great," Peric said. "They are like family to us."
That kind of symbiotic relationship between parents and schools, which died in some neighborhoods decades ago, could be the greatest legacy of the charter movement.
When will business leaders and chambers of commerce in Oklahoma's big cities -- people with an economic interest in the prosperity of the inner city -- start putting the pressure on our public school boards to be more hospitable to charter schools and on our legislators to promote school choice?
(Cross-posted from BatesLine.)