Report: Charter schools saw massive enrollment gains during pandemic

A report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) shows large gains in the percentage of students enrolling in charter schools during the 2020-2021 school year.

The report, Voting with Their Feet: A State-level Analysis of Public Charter School and District Public School Enrollment Trends, found that “hundreds of thousands of families switched to charter schools during the first full school year of the pandemic.”

According to NAPCS’s analysis, last year charter school enrollment grew 7%, noting the gain was “the largest increase 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,” reads the summary page for the report. “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.”

NACPS underscores the need and desire for school choice during the pandemic, noting that “when the reality of the pandemic set in, families voted with their feet during the 2020-20 school year and the percentage of students enrolled in charter schools is likely to have more than doubled.”

13 states saw double-digit changes in charter enrollment during 2020-21, and some of those increases were incredibly large.

Oklahoma was number one in the change in charter enrollment, skyrocketing by 77% while district schools enrollment dropped by 6.5%.

Alabama’s charter enrollment change rate was 65.1% while its public district enrollment dropped 1.5% over the previous year.

Other states with an over 20% or more change included Idaho and Oregon. States with a change between 10% and 20% include Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin.

North Carolina landed at number 17 for the change in charter enrollment during 2020-21.

Here are the key stats for North Carolina from the report:

2019-20 CHARTER SCHOOL ENROLLMENT: 116,316
2019-20 DISTRICT SCHOOL ENROLLMENT: 1,409,828

2020-21 CHARTER SCHOOL ENROLLMENT: 126,165
2020-21 DISTRICT SCHOOL ENROLLMENT: 1,383,055

CHARTER SCHOOL CHANGE: 9,849
DISTRICT SCHOOL CHANGE: -26,773

% CHARTER SCHOOL CHANGE: +8.47%
% DISTRICT SCHOOL CHANGE” -1.90%

The full report can be accessed here.

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a freelance journalist and is currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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