By Mike Bowler

Howard County is poised to join Baltimore County as a “majority minority” public school district in which whites are in the minority, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun under the headline “Diversity Flourishing Across Region’s Schools.”

But Howard has another distinction: It leads the Baltimore metropolitan area in the number of “private public” schools where students from low-income families make up less than 5 percent of the student body, according to a report this month titled "American's Private Public Schools" from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington think tank.

Twenty-four of Howard’s 72 schools fall in the private public category, according to the Fordham report. All are majority white, and most have a substantial Asian American enrollment.

In the Baltimore area, there are 39 private public schools enrolling nearly 22,000 students, about 6 percent of all public students. The Fordham analysis, using federal free-lunch statistics, found seven such schools in Anne Arundel, five in Baltimore County, two in Harford, one in Carroll and none in Baltimore City.

“By serving only well-off children, these schools are arguably more private than many private schools,” said Michael J. Petrilli, a co-author of the report and Fordham vice president. “Perhaps they should stop calling themselves ‘public’ because they are hardly open to the public.”

Fordham calls itself nonpartisan, but the organization is a leading proponent of charter schools and other programs offering school choice. Among the 2,817 private public schools Fordham identified nationwide, 73 are charter schools.

Mike Bowler retired from the Baltimore Sun in 2004 after 34 years at the newspaper as a reporter and editor, much of it covering education. He wrote more than 900 of his “Education Beat” columns for The Sun.