Charter schools historically serve proportionately more students of color and more students from low-income communities than district schools. According to the most recently available data (2019-20 school year), 69.7% of charter school students and 52.9% of district school students are students of color.

Black and Hispanic students composed approximately 44% to 59% of the charter school population from 2009-10 to 2018-19, and this number increased to 60.1% in 2019-20 school year—including the highest proportion of Hispanic students the charter movement has seen in the past 11 years. In district schools, the same groups have not held more than approximately 44% of enrollment share from 2009-10 to 2019-20 school year. For both charter and district schools, however, the percentage of students who are Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian / Alaska Native / Pacific Islander / Hawaiian Native / Two or More Races (“Other”) has increased since the 2009-10 school year, while percentages of Black and White students have decreased. Hispanic students have increasingly enrolled in charter schools since 2009-10, and they reached the plurality of the charter student population in the 2016-17 school year.

Charter schools have also consistently served a higher proportion of students who receive free and reduced-price lunch in the past 11 years (2009-10 to 2019-20 school years).

For state-by-state breakdowns of charter and district school demographics in the most recent available school year, please see the Tables and Figures section on the National Alliance’s data dashboard.

Table 2.1: Charter School Student Demographics

Note: "Other" represents the total of "American Indian / Alaska Native / Pacific Islander / Hawaiian Native / Two or More Races", and missing data. Race / ethnicity and FRPL data are from authors’ calculation using the 2009-10 through 2019-20 Common Core of Data (CCD).

Table 2.2: District School Student Demographics

About the Authors

Cynthia Xu
Yueting (Cynthia) Xu

Coordinator, Data and Research

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.