Long ago a friend loved to say, “You got to dig where the taters are.”  In other words, you have to have a market to be successful.

But numbers from the University of Alabama tell us there are not many taters where Woodland Prep in Washington County is trying to dig.  I asked them to tell me the number of children ages 5-14 there are within a 10, 20 and 30 mile radius of the site of Woodland Prep at 299 Carpenter Road, Millry.

Dr. Qinglin Hu with the Institute for Rural Health Research in the College of Community Health Sciences was able to do just that.  His numbers only confirm what anyone riding the roads of this very rural county observes.  Houses are few and far between.  In other words, they don’t have many taters to dig.

There are only 333 children in the age range of 5-14 within ten miles of the charter site.  Go out to a 20-mile radius and there are only 1,244.  However, 20 miles takes you into Wayne County, MS and Mississippi will not send its public school dollars to a charter school in Alabama.  Plus, this distance takes in a major portion of southwestern Clarke County and southern Choctaw County

Going out to 30 miles is just more of the same.  This takes in about one-half of Clarke County and at least 45 percent of Choctaw..

Since the charter will not provide transportation for students, distance from the school is a definite issue.  And since none of the initial students are old enough to drive, someone will have to take them to school in the morning and come get them in the afternoon.

This kind of homework is second nature to anyone opening a business.  You have to know your market before you open your doors.

There is a Dollar General within two blocks of where I live in Montgomery.  Directly across the street was a drug store that closed a few months ago.  This building now houses a brand new Family Dollar.  Someone did their market research and decided this was a good move.  Judging from the cars in its parking lot, it seems like a smart decision.

However, every time I go to Andalusia I pass a Dollar General in McKenzie and another in Red Level.  It is highly unlikely that Family Dollar will be putting up a building next door to either.  Just not enough taters to dig in such rural places.

The info from the University of Alabama points out a fatal flaw in the plans for Woodland Prep.  There are very few taters in their patch.  Which is why they have signs in Wayne County, MS advertising their school and are paying “recruiters” $20 an hour to try and round up potential students in Washington County.

The charter commission should know things like this.  They should recognize that Washington County is not Montgomery or Birmingham or Huntsville.  Instead, they only seem intent on sprinkling charters willy nilly around the state.  Which is a disservice to our public schools and a misuse of tax dollars.