Charter School Enrollment Continues to Climb Nationwide


Charter school enrollment rose steadily during the last school year, and some districts, like Los Angeles Unified School District, had a growth rate of almost 10% in just one year.

Lauren Camera of US News and World Report writes that over the last five years, the number of students enrolled in public charter schools has grown by 62%, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ 10th annual report.

Today, more than 2.9 million students are being educated in charter schools in 43 states and the District of Columbia. That is approximately 6% of the total number of pupils enrolled in the countries’ traditional public schools.

The report, published after the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Nation’s Report Card), showed that some cities with a large number of charter schools, such as Washington, are showing significantly higher rates of student achievement.

“Washington, D.C., is one of the best examples of a thriving charter public school environment,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Charter schools continue to provide a growing number of families with high-quality public school options, and have been a vital part of D.C.’s educational revitalization, with total public school enrollment growing for the first time in decades.”

In 14 districts nationwide, 30% or more students were enrolled in charter schools. Ten years ago, the report found that only New Orleans was at the 30% mark, and only six districts had up to 20% of their students in charter schools.

Now, ten years after Katrina, over 90% of New Orleans’ public school students were in charter schools in the 2014-2015 school year. The number of charters in New York City has quadrupled since 2008 and the District of Columbia had 44% of its public school students in charter schools last year.

The growing number of charter schools continue to serve poor and minority students as the highest number of enrolled students. Over 80% of the students in 10 districts with the greatest number of charter enrollments were low-income, and 86% were minority children.

Jason Russell of the Washington Examiner explains that charter schools are publicly-funded. Charter schools have more leeway in their operations and in what they teach, which makes these schools desirable by many parents and children.

In Utah, charter schools make up over 10% of the state’s public school student enrollment. The number of low-income students went down this year by approximately 5,000 children, and in all, Utah’s school system grew by over 11,700, which is a 1.9% increase. The state’s total student population is 633,896, writes Morgan Jacobsen, reporting for the Deseret News.

Most of that growth took place in charter schools that increased enrollment by more than 6,000. The total statewide charter enrollment is now 67,509. Cate Klundt, spokeswoman for the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, said state-funded schools offer innovation, creativity, and choice.

Mark Peterson, spokesman for the Utah State Office of Education, says the state will now begin to discern what will be needed to increase per-student spending and cover whatever is required to support student growth.

Minority student numbers have risen in Utah as well, with 5,500 additional minority young people entering the student population for a total of 155,500 children of color in the system. Peterson says that educators in Utah are happy with the growth.