A recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools raised a question: Has charter school growth stalled?
The alliance’s data shows 329 charter schools opened this fall around the country, while 211 closed. That means the number of charter schools increased by just 118. California and Texas accounted for more than half the national increase.
Just a few years ago, the compounding growth of charter schools was so great, it was possible to imagine an all-charter public school system. But political and economic forces may be conspiring to slow that trend. The number of students enrolled in charter schools continues to rise, and has now surpassed 3 million nationally. But if fewer new charter schools are opening, those numbers, too, could soon level off.
Robin Lake of the Center on Reinventing Public Education unpacks some of the factors that may drive the numbers. Authorizers may be getting more stringent, giving fewer charters the green light to open. Highly qualified teachers may be harder to come by, and so may school buildings — or funding to pay for them.
A closer look at Florida may shed some light on the national trend.
Since 2014, the number of charter schools in the state has been stuck just above 650. That’s despite the fact that dozens of new schools open each year.
This fall, 26 new charter schools opened. But they largely replaced 23 charters that closed during the 2015-16 school year. The previous year, 38 new charter schools opened, replacing 37 that had closed. (The national alliance count has a slightly different count, but its numbers tell the same story.)
And yet, this graph, which Adam Miller of the Florida Department of Education recently presented to the House K-12 Innovation Subcommittee, shows the number of students enrolled in charter schools continues to rise.