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I think my title says it all.
According to a report
(PDF) published by the NC Department of Public Instruction, 79,575, or 5.2 percent, of North Carolina's
public school students attend a charter school in North Carolina this year. That is an increase of over 10,000 students
and 0.7 percentage points compared to 2015.
While North Carolina's 158 charter schools are physically located
in only half of the state's counties, all families have access to
charters. Students are permitted to
cross county lines to attend the charter school of their choice. In addition, the state has two virtual charter
schools that allow students anywhere in the state to enroll. As a result, Clinton City Schools is the only
district that has no students within its boundaries enrolled in a charter
school. Fifteen districts have fewer than
10 charter school students, but it is a start.
The availability of charter schools is one factor behind the
remarkable growth of North Carolina's charter school sector. Legislative Republicans removed the cap on
charter schools, enacted more generous growth allowances, and gave the green
light to virtual charter schools. But I
think it goes beyond that.
There is greater knowledge and acceptance of charter schools
among North Carolina families, most of whom welcome educational options. Additionally, state testing results and other
metrics suggest that the academic quality of charter schools is on the rise. Most importantly, charter schools are
responsive to the unique needs of the communities they serve. Unfortunately,
some communities are better served than others.
are more popular in Region 6 than any other.
Region 6 includes Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Lincoln, and Iredell
counties. All three have significant
shares of students who attend charter schools.
In Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Lincoln counties, 9.4 percent of the public
school populations chose charter schools.
In Iredell County, it is 8.1 percent. I suspect that new
assignment policies in
Mecklenburg County will be a boon for area charters, particularly among
families who desire neighborhood schools.
Region 7 is a charter school desert.
Only 1 percent of public school students in this region, which includes 14
counties in the northwest, attend charter schools. Watauga County has the largest share of
charter school students with only 3.5 percent.
If the demand exists, these communities should work with charter and
school choice groups to begin the process of establishing high quality charter
schools in the area.
Regions 2 and
4, composed of counties that stretch from Montgomery County to the coast, also
have relatively small charter school market shares. There are exceptions, however. In Pamlico County, 16.5 percent of students
attend a charter school, specifically Arapahoe
Charter School. In addition, Columbus County and the city
district within it, Whiteville City, each have over 9 percent of public school
students in charter schools. Brunswick
County charter schools, primarily Charter Day School, enroll an impressive 7.3
schools in or near the Triangle (Region 3) attract a significant number of
families. Person, Vance, Durham, and Edgecombe counties have charter school
shares that eclipse 14 percent.
Chatham, Franklin, Granville, and Wilson counties have market shares
that exceed 9 percent. The charter
school population in the largest county district in the state, Wake County
Schools, is 5.7 percent. Again,
unpopular assignment policies may prompt more Wake County parents to consider
enrolling their children in charter schools.
Given their recent comments, the Wake County school board appears
to fear charters' increasing market share.
percent charter school share in Halifax County, 19.5 percent share in
Northampton County, 17.1 percent share in Weldon City, and 10.5 percent in
Martin County drive the 4.9 percent rate in the northeastern counties that make
up Region 1. The primary factor behind
charter school growth is the relatively low quality of district schools in
Halifax and surrounding counties.
in the regions that stretch from the southwest to the Triad have charter school
shares that vary considerably. Mounty
Airy City in Region 5 and Rutherford County in Region 8 have the largest shares
at 9.4 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively.
Millennium Charter Academy is the excellent charter school in
Mount Airy. Rutherford County has two outstanding
charter schools, Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy
and Lake Lure Classical Academy.
many reasons to be optimistic about the future of North Carolina's charter
schools. Without a doubt, school
district officials and public school advocacy groups will continue to grouse
about the number of students enrolled in charters and the funding that goes
with them. But charter school parents,
students, employees, and advocates vastly outnumber them and are beginning to
find the voice to champion and defend their schools of choice.
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