NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Improving Schools To Counter "White Flight"

June 15, 2001

Some cities are trying to keep middle-class professionals from moving to the suburbs as their children near school age by introducing innovations in public schools. Many professionals, mostly white, begin considering private schools or relocation to the suburbs as their toddlers approach kindergarten age.

  • For example, in an effort to blur the line between public and private schools, Chicago has launched prekindergarten classes at 15 schools located in well-off neighborhoods -- charging $5,800 a year for a 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. program packed with computer classes, library lessons, music, math, art and physical education.
  • The aim of administrators is to retain this class in the system by replacing images of low test scores and dangerous hallways with experiences of caring teachers, creative curriculums and clean campuses.
  • Other initiatives include high-tech buildings, magnet programs and Advanced Placement programs.
  • Dallas, Denver, Houston, Philadelphia and San Francisco also charge tuition for a small number of preschoolers.

With fees just covering costs, Chicago's preschool program is cheaper than its neighborhood competitors -- many of which charge $8,000 to $10,000. Those schools also lack the long hours favored by working parents.

Parents are reportedly pleased with the innovations -- and some say their children are learning more and are more involved than they were under the prior system.

Source: Jodi Wilgoren, "Chicago Uses Preschool to Lure Middle Class," New York Times, June 15, 2001.


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