A new report shows that there are currently 2.9 million children attending charter schools in the United States, up by 14% from the last school year.
The report, released by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, found that around 500 new charter schools opened across the country in the 2014-15 school year, with an additional 200 closing for a variety of reasons, including poor academic performance, low enrollment, and financial issues, writes Emma Brown for The Washington Post.
Charter supporters have pushed for closures, believing that closing the underperforming charter schools will ensure that the remaining schools can outperform traditional public schools in the future, writes Blake Neff for The Daily Caller.
The states with the largest number of new charter schools opening were California, Florida and Texas — and these were also the states with the highest amount of schools closing. While 87 schools opened in California, 34 closed, making a net gain of 53. The state currently has 1,184 charter schools that enroll an estimated 550,000 students, giving it the largest charter enrollment of any state.
The report discovered that charter enrollment in California grew by 7% this school year, with more than one in 12 students in the state attending a charter school. Charter schools in the state are exempt from most provisions of the state education code, including requirements to hire unionized teachers.
About 50 million students attend public school in the country, which means that almost 6% of all public schoolchildren are attending charter schools instead of traditional schools. That number is expected to rise to 10% in just a few years.
"We are not surprised parents are choosing charter schools for their child's education," Nina Rees, president and CEO of NAPCS, said in a statement. "The growth in charter school enrollment shows parents' demand for high-quality educational options. We are optimistic that the number of public charter schools will continue to grow to serve even more students and families."
The report looked at data provided by each state's department of education and charter school associations each year in order to determine the number of charter schools in each state and the number of students they enroll. This school year's enrollment was estimated using data from the last three school years.
Across the nation there are 6,700 charter schools, each of which are publicly funded, free to attend, and run independently of public school districts.