by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Enrollment in public charter schools grew by 250,000 students in the 2015-16 school year, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Nationwide, almost 3 million students attend charter schools, nearly three times as many as a decade ago.
Charter schools now serve almost 6 percent of the public school student population. That’s up from just over one percent in the 2001-02 school year. Charter schools didn’t even exist in the United States until 1992, when the first one opened in Minnesota.
The report also finds that 400 new charter schools opened this school year, while 270 closed. Closures happen for several reasons, including declining resources or dipping enrollment, as well as poor academics. California led the pack in growth by state, with 80 new charter schools opening and adding more than 36,000 additional students. There are now almost 7,000 charter schools operating in all but eight states.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools used the growth to call for expanded support for charters. “The continued expansion of charter public schools nationwide, year after year, demonstrates the demand for quality public school options,” Nina Rees, the Alliance’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “Charter schools are preparing students to succeed in college, careers and life. Due to their success, and considering the hundreds of thousands of students still waiting to attend a charter school, our nation’s leaders need to make the continued growth of high-quality charter schools a priority.”