- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) With a $933,000 marketing campaign, Baltimore's school board has joined public school districts across the nation that are trying to draw students back with advertising.
Officials in Milwaukee, Detroit and Charlotte, N.C., are finding that the campaigns help.
"The days when you could open your doors and expect kids to come in [are] over," said Don Hoffman, director of communications for the Milwaukee public school system. "You are in the competition of your life."
Milwaukee, which has one of the largest publicly funded voucher systems in the country, was losing students until it began an aggressive advertising campaign last year.
Today, it has 105,000 students an increase of 1,200 after school officials put their message on television, the radio and even the paper that lines fast-food trays.
Nationwide, school districts lose about $5,000 in state funding every time a student decides to leave a public school system, he said.
In Baltimore, the district can lose up to $8,000 a student if the child is qualified for extra services, said Mark Smolarz, the school system's chief operating officer.
Baltimore parents are taking advantage of expanded choices of where to send their children to school. The public school system serves 60 percent to 65 percent of the city's children.
Private schools are thriving, county schools are bulging as families move to the suburbs and Catholic schools educate about 34,000 students in metropolitan Baltimore.
In the face of this competition, the school district's enrollment fell by 15,000 students in five years and is now about 95,000.
But five years after the state and city formed a partnership to improve the school system, scores have risen significantly at the elementary schools.
School officials say they want to market that success and start improving city high schools and middle schools. If their campaign is as successful as those in other cities have been, they could begin to slow the rate of student departure.
Despite the $933,000 price tag for Baltimore's two-year campaign, many advocates for public education support the idea of marketing the system.
"I think it is long, long overdue," said Baltimore City Council member Melvin L. Stukes, chairman of the council's education and labor subcommittee.
"There is a lot of positive things that occur in this city and the schools that no one hears about."
But Delegate Howard P. Rawlings, Baltimore Democrat, said he thinks the public already is well aware of the positive changes in the school system.
The money, he said, would be better used to increase student achievement.

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