The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Releases Annual Charter Schools Program Impact Report

lead image

The Charter Schools Program is the only source of dedicated federal funding to support the creation, expansion, and replication of high-quality public charter schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released its 2023 Charter Schools Program Impact Report, an annual report that analyzes how Charter Schools Program (CSP) funding was spent in the 2022-23 school year. The CSP is the only source of dedicated federal funding to support the creation, expansion, and replication of high-quality public charter schools. At its Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 funding level of $440 million, the CSP amounts to less than one percent of federal spending on K-12 education, but has a significant impact on the communities that charter schools serve.  

“This report explores the impact of the CSP on communities around the country, and makes the case for increased funding for the program,” says Nina Rees, President and CEO of The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “In the report, we explain the charter school model, offer a brief history of the CSP, profile inspiring grantees, and address persistent misconceptions. Charter schools are a vital part of the public school ecosystem, and by advocating for the CSP, we can help more students access a public school that meets their unique needs.”  

During the first two full school years of the pandemic, approximately 240,000 new students enrolled in charter schools, an increase of about seven percent. Support for charter schools is also high, with 84% of parents agreeing that charter schools should be available to the families who would choose them. Despite high community demand for charter schools, the CSP has remained level-funded for the last five years. Since the inception of this federal program, CSP funding has supported schools that serve more than one million students, offering options for a high-quality public school education, and strengthening federal investment in the CSP will help meet the demand for a high-quality public education for students around the country. 

Here are a few examples the impact CSP grants have had on communities: 

  1. State Entity Grants: The State Entity program makes grants to states which then make subgrants within their state. Nevada State High School, for example, received a $300,000 grant for replication and expansion from Opportunity 180, a State Entity grantee. This unique charter school has helped thousands of students succeed in college by directly enrolling them in college classes during their junior and senior years. This network operates nine schools and serves over 1,100 students, 67% of whom are students of color and 40% of whom qualify for Free & Reduced Price Lunch. CSP funding helped make it possible for this innovative high school model to grow to serve more students.  

  1. Developer Grants: Developer grants provide funds directly to charter schools in states without State Entity funding. For example, Atlas Public Schools in St. Louis, MO received approximately $1.4 million to build a diverse-by-design, community-focused school, where all kids can thrive and learn together across lines of difference. Atlas serves a diverse student body where more than 80% of students qualify for Free and Reduced Price Lunch and 80% are students of color.  

  1. Charter Management Organization Grant: Grants to Charter Management Organizations (CMO grants) support the growth of existing high-quality charter schools. CMO grant funds can be used for replication (opening new schools based on a high-quality school model), or expansion (adding grades or classes to an existing school). Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) received over $3.7 million specifically to add pre-K programming at ten campuses in communities with historically limited access to high-quality early childhood education. CICS serves predominantly students of color who are eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch. 

  1. Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities: Credit Enhancement grants are designed to help charter schools access affordable capital for facilities projects. In 2022, Bluum in Idaho became the first Charter Support Organization to receive Credit Enhancement funding in recent years. With public support through the CE grant, Bluum can help level the playing field for new single-site charter schools to build the school buildings their students deserve, especially in rural areas where access to resources may be even more limited. 

Despite increased enrollment and parent demand for charter schools, plus ongoing research confirming the myriad positive impacts that charter schools have on student outcomes, funding for the CSP has been flat since FY 2019, limiting the charter school community’s ability to grow and serve more students. Flat funding of the CSP is even more remarkable given the substantial and historic increase in federal funding for nearly every other aspect of K-12 education since 2020. Charter schools are a vital part of the public school ecosystem and by supporting the CSP, we can help more students have access to a public school that meets their unique needs.