3 Things to Know About Charter School Enrollment During the Pandemic

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Staff and families at Rainier Valley Leadership Academy in Washington State

America’s public charter school sector is expanding and meeting the needs of families and students. Data obtained by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools indicates charter school enrollment grew 7% in the 2020-21 school year, while district public school enrollment decreased in every state. 

Parents voted with their feet when it came to education—and chose high-quality public educational options that better fit their children’s needs.  

1. Enrollment in Public Charter Schools is Up—Way Up 

Charter schools now serve approximately 3.5 million students. An analysis conducted across 42 states by the National Alliance demonstrated a 7% increase from the 2019-20 to 2020-21 school year. More than 240,000 students were newly enrolled in public charter schools.   

2. Overall Enrollment in Public Schools is Down 

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics reported in June of 2021 that enrollment in public schools plummeted, “by its largest margin in at least two decades.” According to Education Week, every state experienced a dip in enrollment—overall losing 1.4 million students.  

3. Families are Making Lasting Changes   

The National Parents Union surveyed parents during the 2020-21 school year. Results show 80% of parents had an eye-opening experience that led to increased parental involvement and the desire to have more engagement with the schools to provide input regarding their child’s education. This became especially important during the pandemic, where many parents sought more public school options for their students. And like many things in our changing world, there is little to no desire to return to “business as usual.” 

This includes parents like Tallahassee father, Matt Mohler, who knew it was time for a change after watching his children struggle through online learning at a district school in his community. He enrolled his five children, all under age 10, in Tallahassee Classical Charter School, where he was blown away by his children’s progress at their new school.

For additional information, including data and parent testimonies, read Voting With Their Feet: A State-level Analysis of Public Charter School and District Public School Enrollment Trends.  

Brittnee Exum is the manager of communications and marketing at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.