The popularity of public charter schools continues to grow, with this year seeing a record numbers of schools operating and in the number of students enrolled. In the nearly two decades since the first charter opened its door, similar schools have popped up in almost every state of the union. More than 6,000 charter schools are now serving more than 2.5 million students.
In the 2012-2013 academic year alone nearly 400 charters opened their doors for the first time. This represents a growth of 275,000 students who have left their failing traditional public schools to take advantage of better school choice options. This means that in the previous year, the charter movement notched the largest year-to-year gains in its entire history.
"The growth of the public charter sector continues because parents are demanding quality options for their children," said Nina Rees, the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "Charter leaders are opening schools to respond to parents and to provide more students with a quality education that meets their needs."
In a statement released to announce this milestone, the National Alliance – which tracks statistics related to charter schools around the country as well as works to promote the growth of school choice – recalls how 20 years ago the experiment with alternative education paradigm began with only a handful of schools scattered around the country. Now nearly 5% of American students are educated in local charters rather than public schools.
The numbers are even more impressive when you consider that only a handful of states are responsible for the bulk of the increase. Among them is California, with 81 new charters, Florida with 67 and Texas with 41. Rounding out the top five are New York, where 25 charters opened this year, and Michigan which added 23. More than a third of all charters in America – 2,400 – are operating in just these five states.
The 2012-13 academic year caps off a five-year period of tremendous growth. The number of charters grew by 50% since 2007-2008, and the number of students served by the schools grew by nearly 80%.
"The growth over the past five years has been truly remarkable," Rees said. "Our movement has momentum that will continue to positively impact public education because our leaders are committed to pursuing innovation and replicating success in communities across America."