Charter Students and Schools

Public charter schools currently serve more than 3.3 million students in over 7,500 schools and campuses. In the 2018-19 school year, charter schools enrolled 6.5% of all public school students. Since the 2005-06 school year, the number of charter schools and campuses has more than doubled, while charter school enrollment has more than tripled.

Enrollment Schools Chart

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Although the charter sector continues to grow, rate of growth in both schools and number of students has slowed since the 2015-16 school year. This is due to more charter schools closing with fewer opening in their place, as well as a larger overall population of charter schools already in operation. The average rate of charter school closures per year is approximately 3.7%. Approximately 4.2% of newly opened schools close in their first and only year of operation, which is typically the result of facility issues or low enrollment levels.

Table 1.1: Number of Charter Students and Schools From 2005-06 Through 2018-19

Year Charter Students Percent Change Charter Schools Percent Change Closed Open Open/Closed Same Year Share of Public Students
2005-06 1,032,319  --  3,776  --  153  535  36  2.1%
2006-07 1,178,543  14.2%  4,090  8.3%  145  480  23  2.4%
2007-08 1,288,000  9.3%  4,392  7.4%  139  451  19  2.6%
2008-09 1,453,587  12.9%  4,731  7.7%  152  486  11  2.9%
2009-10 1,625,527  11.8%  5,031  6.3%  156  444  19  3.3%
2010-11 1,813,233  11.5%  5,367  6.7%  166  492  19  3.6%
2011-12 2,053,976  13.3%  5,759  7.3%  182  562  15  4.1%
2012-13 2,280,888  11.0%  6,128  6.4%  201  548  18  4.6%
2013-14 2,505,586  9.9%  6,517  6.3%  209  583  25  5.0%
2014-15 2,694,707  7.5%  6,814  4.6%  240  508  23  5.3%
2015-16 2,859,956  6.1%  7,006  2.8%  162  440  15  5.6%
2016-17 3,038,995  6.3%  7,206  2.8%  268  356  21  6.0%
2017-18 3,170,094  4.3%  7,315  1.5%  232  370  28  6.2%
2018-19  3,316,276  4.6%  7,530  2.9%  475  6.5%

Across the United States, forty-three states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam have charter schools. Between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, the number of charter schools and campuses increased in twenty-seven states, Puerto Rico, and Guam, decreased in eight states and Washington, D.C.; and remained the same in eight states.

As of the 2018-19 school year, California far surpasses all other states as having the highest number of charter schools and campuses (1,351). Not surprisingly, states with high numbers of charter schools and campuses also had the most school closures in 2017-18 and school openings in 2018-19. California, Ohio, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Michigan accounted for approximately 69% of school closures in 2017-18. Meanwhile these same states, with Minnesota and New York, accounted for approximately 67% of new schools in the following year.

Table 1.2: Total Number of Charter Schools and Campuses by State 2017-18 to 2018-19

State 2017-18 Schools 2017-18 Closures 2018-19 Openings 2018-19 Schools 2018-19 Enrollment
AK 30 0 0 30 7,126
AL 1 0 1 2 598
AR 82 2 6 86 35,432
AZ 554 13 16 557 207,923
CA 1,275 57 133 1,351 654,549
CO 254 6 13 261 125,017
CT 25 1 1 25 10,433
DC 123 6 5 122 39,085
DE 24 1 0 23 16,086
FL 654 27 27 654 312,367
GA 94 3 3 94 69,855
GU 2 0 1 3 1,363
HI 36 1 1 36 11,565
IA 3 0 0 3 442
ID 59 2 5 62 23,552
IL 141 1 1 141 64,795
IN 100 7 11 104 49,813
KS 10 1 0 9 3,077
LA 151 7 12 156 86,437
MA 85 1 3 87 46,954
MD 52 1 0 51 25,194
ME 11 0 1 12 2,453
MI 366 13 17 370 146,420
MN 222 8 19 233 59,482
MO 72 7 11 76 24,477
MS 3 0 2 5 1,607
NC 176 0 12 188 110,605
NH 31 0 4 35 3,934
NJ 112 3 2 111 51,999
NM 97 4 4 97 26,640
NV 76 2 8 82 52,457
NY 299 7 19 311 147,345
OH 340 32 14 322 108,781
OK 58 3 4 59 38,425
OR 128 1 4 131 35,628
PA 185 2 3 186 143,201
PR 0 0 1 1 58
RI 32 0 4 36 9,529
SC 70 2 10 78 37,546
TN 111 5 8 114 40,524
TX 781 18 71 834 357,217
UT 132 1 3 134 77,880
VA 8 0 0 8 1,232
WA 10 0 2 12 3,352
WI 234 9 11 236 44,489
WY 5 0 0 5 568

A small handful of states again dominate the charter sector when it comes to student enrollment. Five states—California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, and New York—account for over half of all charter school enrollment nationwide. California has the largest charter school sector, with almost 1 in 5 charter school students in the United States attending a school in California. Arizona, however, is the state with the largest share of charter school enrollment relative to its overall population. Almost 1 in 5 public school students in Arizona attend a charter school.


Table 1.3: States with the Largest Charter School Enrollment


About the Authors

Jamison White
Jamison White

Sr. Manager, Data & Research

Before joining the National Alliance in 2017, Jamison worked as a financial and small-business consultant in Pittsburgh, Boston, and the greater New York area. Jamison studied at Carnegie Mellon University and Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany. He is a part of a founding group for a classical charter school in Washington, DC. In his free time, Jamison researches school curricula, pedagogies, and charter school models.

Jessica Snydman
Jessica Snydman

Data and Research Specialist

Prior to joining NAPCS, Jessica held internships with Girl Scouts of the U.S.A’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office and Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2). She also worked for the legal firm Krooth & Altman, LLP in D.C., assisting with numerous HUD multifamily affordable housing deals. Jessica is a Baltimore native and a passionate advocate for students with Learning Disabilities and ADHD, having centered the bulk of her academic and professional efforts on supporting the needs of neurodiverse learners. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Dickinson College, and her master’s degree in Education Policy Studies from The George Washington University.

Cynthia Xu
Yueting Xu

Data and Research Specialist

Yueting (Cynthia) worked as an ESL teacher and education consultant in Philadelphia prior to joining the research team at the National Alliance. During her undergraduate years at Sun Yat-sen University, she studied English language & literature and Economics, served as a research fellow in the university writing center, and conducted research on educational opportunities for underserved youth. She received her master’s degree from University of Pennsylvania with dual majors in ESL education and statistical measurement & research.