As parents sought options outside of traditional public schools during the spread of COVID-19, charter schools saw 240,000 new students.
A recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools revealed that charter school enrollment saw 7.1% growth during the 2020-2021 school year — marking the largest expansion in half a decade.
“Nearly 240,000 new students enrolled in these innovative, student-centered public schools, despite a sharp decrease in overall public school enrollment during the same period,” explained the analysis. “Of the 42 states evaluated, 39 experienced charter school enrollment increases, while only three saw modest decreases. By comparison, district school enrollment dropped precipitously in every state.”
According to Axios, Oklahoma and Alabama, respectively, saw 77.7% and 65.1% growth in charter school enrollment. Meanwhile, charter schools in states such as Oregon and Idaho saw enrollment growth above 20%.
Many parents also turned to homeschooling; the report notes that from March 2020 to September 2020, homeschooling rates across the country grew between 5.4% and 11%. In other cases, parents decided to enroll their children in private schools.
According to the analysis, the United States Department of Education found that enrollment in public schools “fell by its largest margin in at least two decades” — a drop representing a 3% loss in enrollment between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. Education Week reached out to fifty-one state departments of education and found that every state saw a drop in enrollment — totaling 1.4 million students who left public school.
Indeed, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools noted that “families want more, not fewer, public school choices.”
“They voted with their feet this past year, and they will surely vote at the polls. Federal, state, and local policymakers who oppose charter schools are out of touch with their stakeholders and constituents,” the organization concluded. “Thankfully, many leaders across the country are listening to their constituents.”
States such as Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Iowa strengthened charter school laws; meanwhile, officials in states such as Rhode Island and California withdrew bills harmful to charter schools.