Reformer ToolboxLogin

CancelLost your password?

Charter Schools: Still Growing!

• Sam Duell

This is the second post in a three-part series for National Charter Schools Week. View the first post, Charter Schools: Good News for Studentsand the third post, Charter Schools: Increasing quantity and quality in states.

Today, about 3 million students across 43 states attend almost 7,000 charter schools. That is nearly ten times more students and over four times more schools than in 1999.

Charter Students and Schools

But according to numbers provided by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) and as commented by Robin Lake of the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), growth in the number of new charter schools and in the number of students has slowed over the last few years.

Take a look at the numbers of schools that have opened in the last three years, from 640 new schools in 2013 to 329 schools in 2016.

Charter School Openings and Closings

Likewise, the growth of new students enrolling in charter schools is also decreasing, from 12 percent growth in 2012 to 7 percent growth in 2016.

Charter School Growth

So, what is going on here? Some claim that fewer charter schools are opening because of the “re-regulation” of charter schools. Others discuss the decline in number of participants in Teach For America, a strong player in the charter school movement.

Historically, many homegrown charter schools were run by small groups of people for specific, local purposes. Some would say those schools are akin to small businesses, operating on a small scale. If charter schools are like small business, then it would be amazing that they have grown as much as they have over the decline in the number of new small businesses over the last ten years. CNN Money reported last year that US entrepreneurship was at a 40-year low.

More importantly, charter schools currently offer millions of families a choice and a voice in their child’s education. Despite slowing growth, the number of charter schools and students continue to increase. And because of the choices these schools generate, more students are learning and thriving.

About the author

Sam Duell

Sam Duell is an Associate Policy Director for Charter School Policy at the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Previously, Sam was a Managing Director at the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center where, among other education infrastructure projects, he focused on building the capacity of charter school authorizers. Before joining the Resource Center, Sam was a special education teacher, a school administrator, a central office administrator and the Executive Director of School Choice at the Oklahoma State Department of Education where he oversaw charter schools.

A native of Fayetteville, Arkansas, Sam earned a bachelor’s from the University of Colorado Boulder and a master’s from UC Berkeley.