More than 6,000 charter schools now operate in the United States

The number of charter schools surpassed 6,000 at the start of the 2012-13 school year, as these schools — publicly financed, but privately run — steadily increased by 7 percent throughout the United States that year. This annual growth contributed to a 47 percent increase in the number of charter schools over the seven years since 2006-2007.

The charter school data came as part of a “first look” report of annual data collected by states and school districts for the federal government, and released by the National Center for Education Statistics on Thursday, October 30, 2014.  The full 2012-13 Common Core of Data report, as it is called, is expected to be released later this year.

Still, at 6,079 schools in total, charters represented only 6 percent of the U.S. public school system of 98,454 elementary, middle and high schools.

Number of charter schools in each state during the 2012-13 school year

(Use arrows to navigate, then click on any state to see the numbers of charter schools from 2006 to 2013. Interactive map created by Jill Barshay of The Hechinger Report.)

Charters are unevenly spread throughout the country. The first interactive map above shows that California leads the country with more than a thousand charter schools.  Texas is number two, with more than 600 charters, followed by Florida with more than 500.

This article also appeared here.

This article also appeared here.

It’s interesting that charters have often become big political issues in states where relatively few charter schools operate. For example, in Connecticut — where controversies over charters have become part of this fall’s governor’s race — there are only 17 charter schools. Eight states  — Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia — don’t allow charter schools to operate. Washington State didn’t either back in 2012-13, but its laws have since changed and its first charter school opened this past fall in 2014.

The federal government defines a charter school loosely as any school that provides free public elementary or secondary education under a charter. Typically, charter schools receive a per-pupil allotment of funds from the state or a local school district. Many charters supplement that with private fundraising. Most charters hire non-union teachers, but some have unionized faculty.  Most charters operate independently of their local school districts and aren’t required to follow many of the district rules and regulations.

Charter growth rate in each state. Annual change between 2011-12 and 2012-13

(Use arrows to navigate, then click on any state to see charter growth from 2006 to 2013. Interactive map created by Jill Barshay of The Hechinger Report.)

Growth rates also have varied widely. In some states with an established charter movement, such as California, Florida and New York, there has been double-digit annual growth. In Texas and Louisiana, by contrast, growth is slowing.  The biggest one-year increase in the number of charter schools was in New Hampshire, jumping from 15 to 22 schools, a 47 percent increase.

Charter school advocates (naturally) expect to continue seeing steady growth.  The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says that, when the data is released for the 2013-2014 year, it will show 600 new charter schools added that year and more than a 10 percent jump in student enrollment with 288,000 additional students attending charters. “It’s the largest increase we’ve seen in 14 years,” said Katherine Bathgate, director of communications and marketing at the advocacy group.

Bathgate says the waiting lists for seats in charter schools, which her group tracks, are growing longer even as the number of charter schools increase. If such demand continues, she predicts charter school growth will continue as well.

Growth in some states is tamped by laws that cap the number of charter schools. At the same time, other states are relaxing laws to permit more charters. For example, Mississippi recently changed laws that had made it very difficult for a charter to open. In Washington State, where charters are newly allowed, eight new charters are expected to open next fall 2015.

Additional charter school data, including the number of students enrolled, is expected to be released in November or December.

Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that state lawmakers changed the law in Washington State, permitting charter schools to exist. The new law was approved directly by voters through a ballot initiative in November 2012. The text has been corrected. 

POSTED BY Jill Barshay ON November 3, 2014

Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Post a Comment

Steve Troy

Hi Jill,
A couple of errors about my state, Washington. You wrote:
“Washington State didn’t either back in 2012-13, but state lawmakers changed that and its first charter school opened this past fall in 2014.”

State lawmakers did not change the law related to charters in our state; that was the result of the “charter industry”, essentially five billionaires—only two of whom lived in Washington—who spent a record amount of money on paid signature gatherers to force this on to the ballot, and then deluged the airwaves, the internet, radio stations and newspapers with CONSTANT commercials, claiming that this “modest” measure would bring vast, measurable, absolutely incredible improvements to a “broken” public education system.

They had almost every newspaper in the state also promoting this, to the point where you couldn’t distinguish between the “news” stories and the editorial page.

I must have received, with no exaggeration, 3 direct mail pieces per week, as slick as any Fortune 500 ad, imploring me to “improve” our state’s “terrible” public schools through this “small first step” that somehow, even for something so “modest” would absolutely guarantee every child graduating high school heading off to the Ivy League.

The pro-Charter forces outspent their opponents—who they KNEW were going to be forced to put everything they had to defeat an ultra-conservative nominee for governor—by the most lopsided margin in history: 17 to 1. I’ll repeat that, so you know it isn’t a misprint: The Charter Industry outspent their parent and teacher opponents by SEVENTEEN TO ONE!

And they ended up in a statistical tie. Three weeks later, while the votes were still being counted!—the Pro Charter Management Team started issuing press releases and holding press conferences to announce their BIG WIN, prior to the official tally from the Secretary of State’s office. When the official tally came in, it was one of the very closest “wins” in history for a ballot measure, a razor thin less than .1%.

Subsequent surveys and focus groups have demonstrated that IF Washington Voters had known the full details of this law, it would have lost by a substantial margin.

It is being challenged and the Washington State Supreme Court heard the arguments against it on October 28. This is FAR from “over” or “settled”, as much as the paid propagandists from Charter Inc. would like you to believe otherwise.

Also, there are STILL no charters in our state. Nothing has been opened anywhere yet. I think that the Paid Propagandists for the Privatization Pirates have supplied you and other reputable journalists with a fraudulent “Bill Of Goods” on this and related matters.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like more information on this and the new group we parents have formed to fight these shills, called “Washington Voters For Public Education”.

WE will be the state where charters came to die their well deserved death, and our success in defending PUBLIC education will soon sweep all over the other states that were hoodwinked into this criminal enterprise posing as “education”.

Jill Barshay

@Steve Troy — Thank you for pointing out my error that Washington State’s charter school law was changed not by lawmakers but by voters in a ballot initiative. I will fix that in my story. However, there is a charter school operating in Seattle, First Place Scholars Charter School. Here is the link.

Kevin Waters

I am from Camden, NJ. We have 17 charters operating in our school district. Parents have been inundated with propaganda rhetoric that public education is failing urban students.
I am convinced that billionaires and their lobbyist have swindled those parents who are not knowledgeable about how charter schools take funds from local districts under the guise of being legislated as a public school.
How can I get this message out to counter the mis-education of our parents. Also, our school board is not elected, but appointed by the mayor.

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