Families file 16,000 applications for a seat in a charter school

Charter Schools

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Thousands of families, mostly in the city, are letting their school choice applications do the talking.

There are 16,000 charter school applications from families and each application is for two to three schools. There’s only 20,000 students in the city school district as it is.

“Having a choice means everything to me,” said Cloria Sutton-Dowdell, a charter school parent.
Sutton-Dowdell lives in the city but has two boys in Renaissance Academy Charter School of the Arts in Greece.

Jahmaal, 10 and Jordon, 7 love swimming and gymnastics. They followed their older siblings into a charter but they’re on track to return to the city and School of the Arts for high school.

“I do appreciate the city school district but it’s just big,” she said. “And my kids, I feel like, would get lost in the cluster of it being so big.”

“Well with over 16,000 applications last year. Our website saw over 85,000 hits last year. Parents are clearly saying – we are interested,” said Sebrone Johnson, CEO of EDceptional, an advocate for charter schools.

Brean: “What were those numbers again?”

Sebrone Johnson, CEO EDceptional: “16,000 applications for charter schools.”

Brean: “What’s the likelihood that one of those children gets a seat?”

Sebrone Johnson: “Well we advise parents to enroll early. Apply early. Start in kindergarten.”

There are roughly 2,000 seats in Rochester charter schools available.

Historically, the Rochester City School District has ranked last in every major academic category in the state.

And enrollment decline is part of the result.

Over the last 20 years, the city school enrollment has gone from 34,526 to 20,718. That’s a 39 percent drop.

And last September, the RCSD superintendent projected enrollment will hit 14,000 in by 2033.

Brean: “How do you retain your families in the city school district?”

Dr. Carmine Peluso, RCSD Superintendent: “I think it comes to high quality instruction, making sure our kids are learning and improving academic outcomes for our kids as well as providing the best facilities.”

Dr. Peluso pointed to specialties like arts, robotics, sports and wrap-around services where schools become a family’s health clinic.

Here is enrollment decline in the three major city school districts upstate:


22-23: 20,718

12-13: 29,197

02-03: 34,526

Loss: 13,808 / 39%

Buffalo CSD

22-23: 27,758

12-13: 30,750

02-03: 41,625

Loss: 13,867 / 33%

Syracuse CSD:

22-23: 17,394

12-13: 19,763

02-03: 21,739

Loss: 4,345 / 19%

There are 8,500 charter school students in Rochester now.

Brean: “Where do you see that number in 10 years?”

Sebrone Johnson, CEO EDceptional: “Hard to say. The interest here, the impetus for what we’re doing is not to grow more seats, it’s to make the seats we have better.”

The deadline to get into the charter school lottery is April 1st.