National charter school enrollment now tops two million students

As Georgia has shown, there is a great deal of parental interest in charter schools. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools  announced today enrollment in charter schools, which are public schools that operate with autonomy in exchange for contractual performance goals, has surpassed two million. (There are 46 million students in the public k-12 system.)

Here is the release from the alliance:

Over 500 new public charter schools opened their doors in the 2011-12 school year, an estimated increase of 200,000 students. This year marks the largest single–year increase ever recorded in terms of the number of additional students attending charters.

There are now approximately 5,600 public charter schools enrolling what is estimated to be more than two million students nationwide. The numbers equate to a 13 percent growth in students in just one year, while more than 400,000 students remain on wait lists to attend the public school of their choice. This significant milestone demonstrates increased demand from families who want more high-quality educational options for their children.

“We are very encouraged to see the active role parents are playing to ensure their children receive a high-quality education,” said Ursula Wright, interim CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “The results that charter schools are demonstrating are not only a testament to the hard work of thousands of teachers and charter leaders, but to families demanding more in terms of what a high-quality education means for their individual children.”

The top states that added the greatest number of students over the past year include: California with 47,000 new students; Florida with 23,500 additional students; Texas with 22,000 additional students; and Ohio with more than 12,000 additional students.

California leads the nation in total number of charter schools with 983 schools in operation, followed by Arizona with 524, Florida with 520, Ohio with 360, and Texas with 284.

In addition to the more than 500 new schools nationwide, roughly 150 public charter schools did not re-open their doors this fall. These schools closed for a variety of reasons, including low enrollment, financial challenges and low academic performance.

The closures provide further evidence that the charter school intent works—schools that do not meet the needs of their students should close.

The states with the largest number of school closures include: California (34), Arizona (22), Florida (18), Ohio (14), and Wisconsin (11).

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are allowed to be more innovative while being held for accountable for improved student achievement. These figures were compiled based on data from state departments of education and state charter school support organizations and resource centers.

National and statewide public charter school data can be found on the Public Charter School Dashboard.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

46 comments Add your comment


December 7th, 2011
8:27 am

In Geogia, at least, charter schools are very popular with Christian parents because of the following things they can teach:

1. The Earth is flat
2. The Earth is the center of the Universe
3. The Sun and other planets revolve around the Earth
4. The Bible is the absolutely proven word of God
5. Evolution is the work of the Devil
6. Global warming is a liberal Socialist myth
7. All science is just unproven theory
8. God’s chosen political party is the Republican

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

December 7th, 2011
8:31 am

This public school horse needs to be ridden hard and fast until is collapses.

“6. Global warming is a liberal Socialist myth.” <—So true!


December 7th, 2011
8:33 am

Enter your comments here


December 7th, 2011
8:35 am

Charter schools are a wonderful alternative. I have worked in the public school system for many years and I held a variety of positions… Regular public schools are like the “monster mega banks” that Clark Howard talks about, change is great. If you have not tried it, don’t knock it!


December 7th, 2011
8:45 am

Having worked in public, charter, and private schools, I can’t say I was particularly impressed with the charter experience. It was just like a public school (enrollment is done on a lottery system, so you get kids with behavioral and academic issues), but with less resources and funding. Charter schools tout more parental involvement, but parents have always been welcome to get involved in their local public school and attend BOE meetings. Of course, it’s easier to sit back and complain about how government schools are corrupting their precious children, or how parents deserve choices… you’ve had choices all along.


December 7th, 2011
8:45 am

I am quoting a “Mom’s” words-not mine. She wanted her child to attend a certain charter school because 1. He would not be with kids who used English as a second language 2. He would not be with kids who had an IEP. 3. He would not be with children whose parents were in jail. And charter schools want to claim to be public schools-not this one. They are hand picked.


December 7th, 2011
9:11 am

Wow Carlos you are bitter.

opposite of that first guy

December 7th, 2011
9:14 am

Here are some things the govt schools teach:
1. There is no God
2. You were made out of goo and have no real purpose.
3. You are not responsible for your actions.
4. The govt will take care of you and all your needs-cradle to grave.
5.. You do not have to try and can still pass and feel good and get an award too

December 7th, 2011
9:17 am

And homeschool enrollment has also reached the 2 million mark, the number one reason no longer being to teach a God-centered curriculum ( number one reason cited as of 2010: lack of confidence in public schools).

Charters are not proven to be better across the board, but people may be getting an “anywhere but here” mentality with PS now. A slippery slope.


December 7th, 2011
9:18 am

To at least a few of us your item #1 makes it clear which charter you’re talking about

V for Vendetta

December 7th, 2011
9:31 am


Well the first two are true, so you must have attended a good school. :-)


December 7th, 2011
9:39 am

If there is no God and people are made of goo with no real purpose, should the government spend money taking care of the less fortunate? If so, why?

Former SPARK parent

December 7th, 2011
9:54 am

School-choice opponents say too many charter schools in poor neighborhoods fail. The problem is, these critics don’t also point out that the public schools in those areas failed first–and failed miserably. Charter schools can’t fix the problem that causes execrable public schools–a too-high concentration of do-nothing, worthless parents. There is no magic fix for that, sorry, and parents like me cannot be compelled to sacrifice our own children’s futures because parents in other neighborhoods suck.

For affluent Atlanta parents, the idea of forcing the conversion of public schools to charter schools is, to put it indelicately, a gun we can hold to the head of APS to do a better job or step out of the way. I would prefer they step out of the way and let parents run our neighborhood schools. Parents in my neighborhood have more talent and more motivation than the municipal employees who work in our schools, and–here’s the really important part–they have literal skin in the game.

(When critics talk about charter schools failing, they aren’t talking about the kind of conversion-charter schools I’m talking about, where highly accomplished, talented, extremely motivated parents take over the job of running a school from mediocre municipal employees with weak degrees and a downright offensive sense of entitlement).

The charter school we’ll inevitably establish to replace APS at SPARK, for example (just wait) will turn SPARK into what it should have been all along–a school worthy of being compared to Woodward Academy. APS could never in a million years accomplish what our future parent-led charter board will accomplish.

APS is not in the business of trying to run excellent schools in great neighborhoods. APS is in the business of trying not to let failing schools fall completely off a cliff. They’re like: “Excellence? Don’t talk to me about excellence. I need to worry about making AYP. I’m just trying to keep my nose above the waterline.”

There are a lot of parents who think SPARK is just fine, and Inman MS is just fine. So you might think I’d face an uphill battle mobilizing a charter movement here. But just wait–the APS BOE is going to do that job for me. They’re about to screw up the redistricting process — because they never ran into a campfire they couldn’t turn into a forest fire. I don’t have to do anything right now but just wait.


December 7th, 2011
10:07 am

Parents are voting with their feet. They are demading a more accountable, more suitable education solution for their children. Rather than being concerned, we ought to be excited about offeriing better, more individualized solutions to students.

What is really important? The failing institution of the one size fits all poorly education establishment or schools that actively engage students and parents, who feel accountable for their outcomes? Do we value the system or the kids?

V for Vendetta

December 7th, 2011
10:17 am


No, they shouldn’t. The government should not be in the charity business. The government shouldn’t be in ANY business except defense.


December 7th, 2011
10:21 am

I teach in a public school and I don’t blame people for sending kids to charter schools at all, at least based on they system I am in which is the infamous CCPS. The reason for this is because, at least in my case and I suspect many others are the same, the school I teach at is absolutely atrocious. I would never bring my own child to school here…EVER!


December 7th, 2011
10:22 am

@FormerSparkParent ~ “I would prefer they step out of the way and let parents run our neighborhood schools. Parents in my neighborhood have more talent and more motivation than the municipal employees who work in our schools” I am curious, why not just run for a spot on the board??

Are Charter schools who handpick students really public schools? I am curious about this one too. I thought all charter schools were operated on a lottery because being that they are publicly funded they cannot exclude anyone purposely from the registration process.

For those who don’t know, most charter schools still have EIP classes. My son is in one and was diagnosed with a learning disability. There are only 11 kids in his class and he has learned more in the past 9 weeks than he did of an entire year of pre-k. Of course, that could also be because they finally found out what was going on with him and how he learns so that could be incorporated with the lesson plan.

I enrolled my son in the local charter school because CCSD increased the class sizes and I didn’t feel as though my son would get a good kindergarten experience with 24 other kiddos in his class. I also wanted him to have more structure and I wanted him to wear a uniform.

Sometimes it’s not all about failing the “gifted” or “smart” kids, sometimes it’s about making sure your own kid doesn’t get swept under the rug.

Jerry Eads

December 7th, 2011
10:32 am

What we DON’T have are any data that suggest charter schools help kids. Virtually none of the refereed research shows any consistent change in “achievement” as indicated by test pass rates (like us) or scores (those places with tests built to provide useable scores). They do appear to be somewhat effective in resegregating schools, whether it’s by race, economics, or motivation. If the latter, perhaps that’s a good thing in some ways, but don’t confuse separating the “want to’s” from the “don’t want to’s” as the silver bullet for improving schools.


December 7th, 2011
10:56 am

teacher – 9:11

Tea Party conservative Christians and many Muslims have something in common. They both want to take us back a centrury or two to the days of relative scientific ignorance. They are not comfortable in today’s world since modern science conflicts with their religious teachings. Republicans politicians gladly go along with this since the only thing they care about is getting elected and re-elected. It goes without saying that these Muslims and Christians and politicians know that many of us do not want to go back to those days of ignorance. It also goes without saying that they could not possibly care less about what we want and will drag us with them without hesitation. So, yes, that makes me a little bitter.

V for Vendetta

December 7th, 2011
11:01 am


I agree. The current amount of pandering by the GOP candidates on the subjects of evolution, climate change, abortion, etc. is disgusting The sad thing is that an enormous amount of our voting public WANTS to hear that from their candidates. Pathetic.

HS Public Teacher

December 7th, 2011
11:07 am

Only 5% of students chose charter schools? And, is that out of 100% of public school kids only? So if you were to consider 100% of all students (public and private and homeschool), then the % of charter students would likely be more around 1%, right?

Is this really news worthy? Does that really tell us anything?

Just askin’.


December 7th, 2011
11:16 am

If eighty percent of the students in America are not in public schools even though their parents are paying for them, THAT would be ASTOUNDING news. And compelling evidence of the failure of the public school system.

However, I doubt that the percentages are anywhere near that high. Charter schools, home schooling and private schools are accelerating in spite of the recession because parents no longer believe that the public school option is best for their child. In the past ten years there has been a sea change in the perception and performance of the public schools.

Change in the public school system is required. Charter schools are a good approach for many families. If there is not change then the public school system will simply collapse as parents withdraw thier kids in large numbers and the rationale for publicly funded education ( which I agree with) meets the reality of the 21st centruy public school.


December 7th, 2011
11:19 am

You make confident but ignorant assumptions about what other people want. Your attempt to be dismissive is pathetic and sad. I wonder why you are so filled with anger.

Maybe the dumber they are the louder they get.

My tax dollars at work.

Old South

December 7th, 2011
11:27 am

opposite of that first guy:

6. That the “west” is just as every other culture.

We may do public school for ours, but that will be backed by a strong western cultural influence so as to combat the post-modern dead end which is taught today.

Happy SPARK parent

December 7th, 2011
11:37 am

Everyone in Virginia Highlands/Morningside/Midtown etc would never send their child to any intown charter school because we know the public schools (SPARK, LIN, MES) are so much better. I feel that charter schools have actually contributed to the overcrowding issues we are seeing now. Instead of parents focusing on making a school better they chose to “escape” and put their children in mediocre charter schools. The low performing public schools in those areas are underutilized. Meanwhile, parents are pulling their children from private school and enrolling them in APS schools like SPARK because they know they’re top schools and the cost of tuition is 0 dollars (minus some fundraising contributions). I am parent who withdrew my child from a top 17K annual private school with three teachers to a clasroom of 24 to SPARK. I can’t imagine why a classroom of 24 would need three teachers to differentiate when my child’s teacher at SPARK differentiates 20 students on her own.

the people that talk about making SPARK a charter school (and I can count those people on my hand) are the same people that can’t play in the sandbox, can’t get along with anyone, think their kids are so special. It’s taken years to build our good schools and we’re not going to throw it away for a charter school. That isn’t what building a community is about, building charter schools is about tearing apart a community. It’s directing parent energy and resources in the wrong place.

Blue dog

December 7th, 2011
11:40 am


You “burn their ears” by speaking the truth. The GOP became the party of the “righteous” to get voters more interested in “moral issues” than “government issues”…thanks to Karl Rove.
That seems to have brought out voters that previously did not get involved in politics. That, in turn, has “dumbed down” the electorate as a whole. Now we cannot have a real debate about “what’s best for this country”, without the inevitable questions about a candidate’s views on abortion, religious preference, or same sex marriage.
These “neocons” now want to find some way to overthrow “secular public school” so they can have schools that allow the teaching of their own beliefs.

Recently Retired Teacher

December 7th, 2011
11:45 am

Carlos has more issues than the eight he mentioned. As with public schools, not all charter schools are alike. Some are great; some not so great.


December 7th, 2011
11:48 am

step 1: Open a charter school
step 2: get per student reimbursement at rural district rates
step 3: Profit

Charter schools are a way to funnel money from the coffers of underfunded inner-city schools into the pockets of these charter school operators.

Blue dog

December 7th, 2011
11:50 am

Recently Retired Teacher

You should have some answers to the question…”what’s wrong with public schools”and “what can be changed” to make them better.

HS Public Teacher

December 7th, 2011
1:06 pm

@Blue Dog – I will attampt to answer your questions….

“What’s wtong with public schools?”

In general, we have the following. However, this does not mean that EVERY school is like this. Or, that EVERY parent is like this.

1. Parents are detached. As long as little Sally moves from one grade to the next, and sometimes it doesn’t even take that much, the parents do nothing. Sometimes, it isn’t because they don’t care but rather because they are holding down two jobs and don’t have the time or energy.

2. Students are kids. They won’t do any work if they don’t have to. They don’t see the long vision of their future. They only see today and today they want to chill and play video games with their friends. As long as their parents say nothing and they show some measure – however small – of progress in school, they really don’t care.

3. The administrators answer to no one. School system administrators create rules without understanding how this impacts student learning. Most of them are “failed” teachers that desperately wanted out of the classroom. They create rules and regulations to make THEIR lives easier. They don’t care about teachers at all. More paperwork required by the State? Make the teachers do it. Need more adult supervision in the halls? Make the teachers do it. A student misbehaves (pulls a knife)? Make the teacher responsible for contacting parents, documenting, discipling kids, etc. These administrators make the mega-big bucks (so do their secretaries/girl friends) to do nothing more than pass the buck.

4. Teachers are overwhelmned. Most sincerely want to help children and want to teach content. However, teachers cannot because of lack of parenting (see number 1), lack of students caring (see number 2), and/or lack of time/admin support (see number 3). So, all of the time and energy is spent doing other things instead of teaching content to students.

“What can be changed to make public schools better?”

1. In my opinion, Georgia is lacking the checks-and-balances that could be reached if the State law allowed a real teacher union. If the people of Georgia would stop assumming that ALL unions are evil, and open their minds to the potential good a real teacher union would do for our students and for education, then maybe (just maybe) the law makers would change the law to allow this to happen.

2. In Georgia, we need a required parenting course in high school. No, this course would not teach how to change a diaper. This course would teach how to raise a child with proper manners (saying “yes sir” or “yes ma’am”, etc.), proper speech (in order to at least speak well in a job interview), proper grooming (sagging pants is not acceptable in a job interview), and so on.

3. Hold parents accountable for the actions of their child. If their child skips school, then the parents need to be penalized – a fine, jail time, whatever. Maybe then the parents would actually do SOMETHING to properly parent. This could easily become a law.

Sorry that this is such a long one….


December 7th, 2011
1:24 pm

I still don’t understand why all public schools can’t be run the same way charters are, especially if, as proponents claim, they are so much better. I suspect that it is instead because many charter proponents want something different for their own children but not everyone else’s. And, as someone noted above, they don’t want their children in schools with English language learners, special education kids and children with relatives in jail.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

December 7th, 2011
2:13 pm

The sooner we begin putting more citizens in jail the sooner this situation will correct its self.


December 7th, 2011
2:14 pm

@HS Public Teacher, spot on. Well-written. @Batgirl, exactly.

Former SPARK parent

December 7th, 2011
2:56 pm

@Happy parent: you’ll be ready to wrestle control of SPARK when APS tells you, sometime next year, that it had “no choice” but to order hundreds of children to be bused to Hope Hill or to a “learning center” at MES, and siblings are separated, and families here are treated like they’re nothing more than ATM machines for a disastrously inept bureaucracy. Call me then. I’ll be happy to share a sandbox with you and everybody else who finally gets fed up with eating APS’s s**t sandwiches.

Former SPARK parent

December 7th, 2011
3:03 pm

Also, Happy–I wouldn’t be dissin’ the Intown Charter School. Unlike SPARK, they don’t have a principal whose previous school had a 29% cheating rate on the CRCT. AND who was force-fed to an all-too-acquiescent parent “leadership” (not me, I objected loudly and often) by Bev Hall herself, before Bev had that little issue with the largest cheating scandal in US education history….and unlike SPARK, Intown doesn’t fire its best teachers because they “don’t get on the (power-trippin’ principal’s) bus”….and unlike SPARK, Intown doesn’t have a “technology specialist” who can’t use computers….sigh…I could go on. Really, I could. But you just keep telling yourself that it’s excellent. Because, you know, if you believe it, and say it loudly enough, that’s what counts.


December 7th, 2011
8:47 pm

What this report doesn’t tell you….

Is that public school administration and educrats many times fought charter schools tooth and nail. How many more students would have fled the traditional public school model if offered the opportunity?

Vouchers, charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, homeschooling, etc, etc, are all symptoms of the fact that many parents are fed up with the public school model.

Those of you in the traditional public schools need to wake up and smell the coffee….

The Phantom

December 7th, 2011
9:11 pm

@ Jerry Eads and @ Happy SPARK Parent

There is data, and it shows that at least in APS some charter schools are not mediocre:
(although not on the list here, Springdale Park came in 35th statewide, with a combined score of 196.5; Morningside came in at 45th statewide, with combined score of 195.5…complete list of schools at

While Drew and NCS are a few points lower than SPARK & MES, their scores are considerably greater than the other ES south of Dekalb Avenue in SRT-3 (and in Drew’s case, their student body is substantially different from SPARK/MES in terms of race and free/reduced lunch percentages). Before some of you say that Drew/NCS/Wesley “hand-pick” students, please note that the primary criteria for entry is (1) you live within the designated charter district, and (2) your parents/guardians actively fill out an application and agree to abide by the rules set forth by the school: volunteer hours, uniforms, etc. The key issue being that the parents must proactively do something to get involved in their child’s education.

You may dismiss the validity & purpose of the CRCT, but that is the test that Georgia uses. Someday we may get to the ITBS, but until then this is what we have to deal with.

The Phantom

December 7th, 2011
10:14 pm

@ Batgirl

As a parent of a child in a charter school, it is not because I want something different for my child and screw everybody else.

As a RESPONSIBLE, LOVING, & CARING parent, I feel that is is my RESPONSIBILITY to ensure that my child receives the best education that I can possibly give him to ensure that he grows up to be another RESPONSIBLE, PRODUCTIVE, ENGAGED member of society. This means that I looked for a school where the activities of the other students, parents, teachers, and school staff made that possible. I looked for a school where my child could concentrate on learning, and not worry about his safety. I looked for a school where the children concentrated on their studies, and not about the latest fashions. I looked for a place where regardless of race/sex/SES/etc, the children were given the same opportunities and conversely had the same expectations for achievement. I looked for a place where all of the students didn’t look exactly alike, to prepare him for an adult world where your neighbors & co-workers ARE different.

If for those reasons, I am seen as a selfish charter parent than so be it. I hope that other parents would be actively involved in their children’s education, in all schools, and then maybe we wouldn’t have all of the discussions that routinely come up on this blog because ALL of our schools would be doing great. But since we legally can’t make citizens pass attitude/aptitude/means tests before they become parents, I don’t see this happening…

patrick crabtree

December 8th, 2011
6:28 am

There are good charters, there are good public. People want to be elitest. That is the problem. As a WHOLE, Charters do not out perform public even with parental involvement that public schools lack in many cases. The problem is parents want to run the school on their narrow minds. One has to consider the community’s overall views. You want elitism, pay for it. The difference between effective schools and non-effective schools is what was stated, parents taking an active role to work with, not destroying teachers, prinipals, or public schools reputations. What charters do is take away the COMMUNITY’s autonomy and gives it to NON elected boards for 5 years. The community may not like the school, but the elected board members have no say until the charter is up. It takes valuable resources from the neediest public schools. Ie. a charter gets the state allocated funds for a child, kicks them out and sends them back to public schools. Now we have to educate them WITHOUT the allocated funds the charter got, taking from the child that was always in public. Fair? of designed to make public schools fail? If that charter school gets sued, taxpayer pay for it. The public system, by law, has a hands-off day-to-day operation and can only step in if failing financially. The elected member cannot tell their board what to do or that Principal. Do you really want that? I want my tax dollars to remain fully public where I have a direct say. Privatizing of public dollars is not in a community’s best interest. It dilutes the taxpayer’s voice.

patrick crabtree

December 8th, 2011
6:30 am

Maureen, again…….Why am I being censored?

[...] Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog Posted in: [...]

Good Mother

December 8th, 2011
4:27 pm

Very true…

“For affluent Atlanta parents, the idea of forcing the conversion of public schools to charter schools is, to put it indelicately, a gun we can hold to the head of APS to do a better job or step out of the way. I would prefer they step out of the way and let parents run our neighborhood schools. Parents in my neighborhood have more talent and more motivation than the municipal employees who work in our schools, and–here’s the really important part–they have literal skin in the game.”


December 8th, 2011
7:46 pm

For those of you who think charters are all about elitism or making a profit, please take 5 minutes to view this:

patrick crabtree

December 9th, 2011
5:56 am

patrick crabtree

December 9th, 2011
5:53 am
@Ned. Like I said, there are good and there are bad. This can still be achieved within the public schools or even PRIVATE schools. Charter schools are not held to the same rules or laws public schools are held to, yet OVERALL they still don’t outperform as stated by many on this blog. That is a unique school and maybe should be private. Our constitution guarantees FREE, PUBLIC for its CITIZENS. Let me stress CITIZENS again. Refugees fall under charity and if they need more than our own citizens are entitled to, then private funds needs to step in (and of course they need it). Many students hate Social Studies and as adults we do not know what are our rights and not and what is charity, but not constututionally guaranteed.
@S GA and all. GPS is out! The state dept. will be rolling out common core standards.These are NATIONAL standards. Get ready for anouther roller coaster. This is my problem. We teachers are told how to teach, when to teach, where to teach, what to teach, why to teach and yet are never asked why the new programs aren’t working? Yet we are blamed, all these experts, yet when their programs fail and we get the blame. Charter are given the flexibility to experiment, yet they have the same problems. Differentiation started in England and touted as great, yet they dropped it calling it a dismal failure. What sounds good isn’t always and tax dollars should not go to flimsy charters who promise what is undeliverable. They are not the panacea. We need to use our tax dollars within our own community not to a private comany or “non-profit” that is based somewhere outside our community.


December 9th, 2011
9:15 am

As you’re a scholar of social studies, please provide the direct quotation from the Constitution to which you refer guaranteeing free public education specifically and solely to citizens.


December 10th, 2011
6:01 pm

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