Florida charter school growth slowed over the past several years. But that trend appears to have leveled off.
The state’s charter schools added a little more than 12,000 students this school year, according to the latest statistics from the Florida Department of Education. That’s down only slightly from the previous school year, when they added just shy of 13,000 students.
Total charter school enrollment stands at 295,814.
Statewide, this growth is not cutting into school district enrollment. Over the past five school years, both district and charter schools added students overall.
But the trends vary across school districts.
For example, in Palm Beach County, charter school enrollment actually shrank from last year. The local press noted this in August. That’s despite steady growth in overall public-school population.
Palm Beach wasn’t alone. Charter school enrollment also declined in neighboring Broward County. Leon County charters lost a few hundred students, largely due to school closures. Lee and Monroe Counties stand out because their charter schools enroll a smaller percentage of public-school students in 2018 than they did in 2014.
Meanwhile, charter schools in Osceola County have grown rapidly. They now enroll nearly a fifth of the district’s public-school students. But the district schools are growing, too — thanks in part to an influx from Puerto Rico. Charter schools may help the district manage that growth.
The same could be said for Hillsborough County. District enrollment declined slightly in the Tampa area this school year. But it’s up by more than 6,000 students since 2014, and charters keep growing.
On the other hand, in Miami-Dade County, charter schools have grown steadily, but enrollment in district schools has declined.
The competition for students is stiff. That may drive the district to keep adding choice and magnet programs.