A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities

National Alliance

For the past 20 years, the public charter school movement has been a leader in innovation and education reform. By unleashing an environment of creativity in states and communities, charter schools have demonstrated that children of all backgrounds are capable of achieving high standards and that college and career readiness is a goal attainable for all. Charter schools have led efforts to narrow achievement gaps and are showing that success is possible in neighborhoods where schools have been failing for generations. For these reasons, public charter schools have been the fastest-growing sector of America’s public education system. Beginning with a handful of charter schools in 1992, the number of charters has grown rapidly, especially in the past four years. Today, demand for public charter schools is at an all time high. In 41 states and the District of Columbia, more than 2 million students – almost 5 percent of total enrollment in public schools – now attend a charter school. The growth in public charter school enrollment presented in this report shows that parent demand for school options continues. For seven years, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has tracked the growth in student enrollment at public charter schools. The enclosed report, A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities identifies school districts that have the highest percentage and highest number of public school students enrolled in public charter schools. In communities where families have choice, families are increasingly selecting public charter schools over the traditional public schools. The 2012 Phi Delta Kappa (PDK)/Gallup poll indicates that two thirds of Americans favor charter schools. A recent poll of Detroit residents, for example, found that more than half of them believe charters are a better option than the schools in the traditional public system. In countless other communities, parents are clamoring for more high quality public options for their children. As a result, the public education landscape is shifting in many major cities. Today, a record number of school districts—seven–-have at least 30 percent of their public school students enrolled in public charter schools. Charter schools in New Orleans enroll an astounding 76 percent of public school students. A total of 25 school districts have 20 percent or more of their public school students enrolled in charter schools, 18 more than when we first printed this report seven years ago. More than 100 districts now have at least 10 percent of public school students in charter schools. These numbers illustrate that demand for options within the public school system remains strong. And with more than 610,000 additional students across the country on waiting lists to attend charter schools, these numbers are likely to rise in the future.