Crusader Staff Report
Gary has lost the greatest amount of its school-aged students to private schools, according to a recent report by the Indiana Department of Education.
The report used data from the start of the 2017-2018 school year. It includes all public schools in Lake County. The report shows most districts lost students to private charter schools, but the district with the greatest loss is Gary. While a majority of students still attend public schools in neighboring cities, Gary students are leaving a district that’s mired in debt and low academic achievement.
This is the first year the department conducted the report.
According to the report, the city had 12,032 school-aged children in the fall, but only 4,681 or 39 percent attended the Gary Community Schools. About 61 percent or 7,354 students attended other schools. Of that amount some 5,466 of those students or 45.4 percent are in charter schools and 1,266 or 10.5 percent are attending public schools outside the city, while 578 attend private schools through state vouchers.
Gary’s biggest enrollment losses stem from elementary schools. Gary has not had a middle school since 2016 when the Williams Annex closed. To boost enrollment, Emergency Manager Peggy Hinckley is exploring the possibility of bringing back a middle school.
The state took over Gary’s public schools after the majority of the district scored an F grade on the Indiana Accountability Report. With over $100 million in debt, Hinckley was given full control to make academic and financial decisions to turn- around the district.
Elsewhere, in East Chicago only 988 of the city’s 5,329 students are in public charter schools and 367 attend private charter schools, according to the report. Approximately 70 percent (3,721) of the 5,329 children who attend school in East Chicago’s public School City District.
The report shows Hammond’s public school system is still preferred over public and private charter schools.
More than 85 percent (12,416) of Hammond’s 14,521 school-aged students remain in the city’s public schools. Approximately 2,109 students attend other schools, but of that group, only 926 are enrolled in a private school through a state voucher. Approximately 809 attend a public charter school.
Of all the school districts in Lake County, Munster and Lake Central had the highest percentage of students in public schools with 98 percent and 97 percent, respectively.
Other cities in Lake County show public districts are keeping a majority of their students. They include River Forest (97 percent), Crown Point (96.7), Tri-Creek (96 percent), Highland Creek (96 percent), Hanover (93.9 percent), Hobart (93.9 percent), Griffith (92.6 percent), Lake Ridge (91.9 percent), Lake Station (81 percent), Merrillville (89 percent), Whiting (88.6 percent).
Public schools in cities in Portage County have also kept a high majority of their students.
“We are pleased to compile and release the 2017-2018 transfer report, providing our schools with even more insight into the individual students they serve,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said in a statement. “Having a great understanding of every aspect of our local districts will allow our educators to make important decisions and better plans.”