Waiting for Their Chance: A Closer Look at Wait Lists in Urban Public Charter Schools

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Public charter schools are finally giving parents an alternative to the low-performing school systems in our nations biggest cities. Unfortunately, in communities with few high-quality public school options, the demand for charter schools is substantially higher than the number of seats available. When this happens, charter schools hold lotteries to determine which students will be able to attend. And every year far too many students end up on wait lists, rather than in the school of their choice. No students fate should be decided by a lottery ball.

Our latest report looks at conditions in ten urban school districts that have large wait lists for public charter schools. In these school districts, nearly all of their traditional public school systems perform well below their states average, and most of them have public charter schools that are achieving positive academic outcomes for their students. Not surprisingly, these districts also have thousands of students who are waiting for a chance to attend a public charter school.

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