New Report Shows 10 Major Cities Fail to Meet Parental Demand for Charter Schools

lead image

Washington, D.C. Many of America's largest cities can't meet the growing demand for high-quality public charter schools, leaving tens of thousands of students on wait lists. That's the conclusion of a new report released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which finds New York City has the largest number of student names on charter school wait lists among 10 major urban districts, followed by Los Angeles, Houston and Boston.

One of the most striking examples of this gap between demand for charter schools and available spaces is found in Boston, where wait list figures are three times as high as current enrollment in public charter schools. In fall 2014, Boston had 25,700 student names on wait lists and 9,660 students attending charter schools.

The study, Waiting for their Chance: A Closer look at Wait Lists in Urban Public Schools, examines enrollment and wait list numbers reported by charter support organizations and state departments of education in 10 urban school districts. Along with New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Boston, the report also analyzes wait lists in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Miami and Washington, D.C.

"Parents who live in these cities want and deserve access to high-quality schools. Just this week we learned that there were a record 21,000 applications for 1,000 seats at a charter school in New York. Parents should be able to send their children to a school of their choice and not have their children's future subjected to a lottery," said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "Several studies, including a recent one by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, show that charter schools are providing high-quality public school options for families across the nation particularly those in urban districts, many of which have been without quality options for far too long.

"Charter school enrollment surged 14 percent in 2014-15 from the previous school year, with nearly 3 million students now attending more than 6,700 public charter schools. However, charters continue to grapple with roadblocks such as caps on charter school growth, inadequate funding for facilities, and challenging political environments, which result in huge lists of students waiting for an opportunity to attend a charter school of their choice.

"Demand for public charter schools in these districts is growing because of frustration with poor-performing district schools and the reputation of high-quality charters. The National Alliance report shows that when parents learn about a school that has an excellent record of academic performance, they want their child to be a part of it.

"It's important to note that the performance of traditional public schools in these 10 districts is low, especially compared to students in public charter schools, who achieve significantly higher results in reading and math. But there are still thousands of students in these cities who end up on wait lists," said Rees. "We know charter schools are providing a great education for kids, so why not invest in them? Policymakers should do everything in their power to make charter schools available to those who need them the most."

About Public Charter Schools

Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many independent research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.

About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit our website at