Nation's charter school waiting lists growing, report says

The number of families waiting acceptance into charter schools is nearing 1 million, according to a survey of charter schools across the nation, which showed a near 50 percent increase in the number of names on waitlists this year compared to the 2011-2011 school year.

The estimates were released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools last week, which found that there were 920,007 names on charter school waiting lists 2012-2013, compared to 610,000 in 2011-12.

Baltimore city charter schools reported that there were 5,648 names on their waiting lists (the city has the most charters in the state, with about 12,000 students enrolled), and the Alliance estimated that there were 11,984 names on lists across the State of Maryland.

The Alliance's CEO Nina Reese called the statistics "heartbreaking for too many families hoping to send their child to a high-quality public charter school."

The Sun recently looked at this issue at a local city school, the Henderson-Hopkins K-8 run by Johns Hopkins University, that is due to expand and move to a state-of-the-art building next year.

Parents in East Baltimore -- whose children live a block away from the new school--decried their childrens' placement on the school's waiting list, after it was sold by redevelopers and Hopkins officials as a "community school." The school had 335 applicants for 120 spots, The Sun found, and its tension of supply-and-demand is not unique.

Baltimore's school officials addressed the tension of charters vs. traditional schools in interviews for the Henderson-Hopkins story.

City school officials acknowledged the the desperation that Baltimore parents are feeling about getting their children into charter schools, which are often seen as superior to zone schools.

“The notion that the kids who don’t get into those schools are somehow limited to bad neighborhood schools is just not accurate,” said Alison Perkins-Cohen, who heads the district's office of new initiatives. “We’re trying to provide a range of high-quality schools, and our hope is that all of the options are good. Are we there yet? Maybe not. But we’re working hard.”

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