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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@excelined.org

Before Sam joined ExcelinEd as the Associate Policy Director for Charter Schools, he was a special education teacher, a school and central office administrator, the Executive Director of School Choice at Oklahoma’s department of education and the Managing Director of OPSRC’s Education Collaborative. In every position, Sam worked creatively to meet student needs. He founded the Integrated Support Program at Fischer Middle School in San Jose, California to increase the number and percentage of students with learning disabilities who have access to the general education classroom. He was the first administrator of Oklahoma’s Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, the authorizer for online schools in Oklahoma. And he co-founded a statewide afterschool network called the Oklahoma Partnership for Expanded Learning to organize and advocate for expanded learning opportunities after school and during the summer. Sam’s current interests include charter schools and their role in a functional, thriving democracy.