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.
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: Changes in Charter Schools and Campuses & Students From 2005-06 Through 2018-19
|Year||Charter Students||Percent Change||Charter Schools and Campuses||Percent Change||Closed||New||New/Closed Same Year||Share of Public Students|
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|
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
|State||2018-19 Enrollment||Share of Total Charter Sector Enrollment||Share of State Public School Enrollment|
As a reporting standard, the National Alliance typically uses the nuanced “schools and campuses” language in order to capture the on-the-ground experiences of students, families, and educators more accurately. This language allows us to depict the growing charter community more accurately while still acknowledging that not all the records are what the average person would call a school. When calculating new or closed schools, it can be helpful to include new or closed campuses to fully capture the growth or contraction in the charter sector, but it may also obfuscate the true story. To understand why this might be the case, please check out the 2020 Charter School Campus Report. For full transparency, below are the new and closed numbers for just charter schools:
Table 1.4 New and Closed Charter Schools Over Time