Trends in charter enrollment nationwide

By July 15, 2021 July 16th, 2021 News

State shifts in K-12 enrollment have been in the news quite a bit lately. Recent data show significant upticks in both NC public charter and homeschool enrollments for 2020-21. Private school data show a modest increase in enrollment. But what about the nation? What does enrollment look like over time–for public charter schools, specifically?

Since 2009, public charter enrollments have doubled

Federal data show a surge in charter popularity across the nation. Between Fall 2009 and Fall 2018, public charter enrollments doubled, from 1.6 million to 3.3 million students. Not surprisingly, this trend has impacted district public schools nationwide.

As the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) notes, “In contrast, the number of students attending traditional public schools decreased by 0.4 million between fall 2009 and fall 2018. As a result of these concurrent trends, the percentage of all public school students who attended public charter schools increased from 3 to 7 percent over this period.”

Mapping charter enrollment nationwide:

Map from the National Center for Education Statistics

The national average of public school students who attend charter schools is 7%.

NCES reports the states with high percentages of public charter students

In the following states, 10% or more of public school students attend charter schools.

  • California
  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Arizona
  • Louisiana
  • Florida
  • Michigan
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia

The District of Columbia leads the nation, with 45% of public school students enrolled in charter schools. Next up: Arizona, where 18% of public school students attend public charter schools.

In this map, North Carolina sits right at the national average. However, the charter population in our state continues to increase, reaching 126,000 students in 200 schools in 2020-21.

Find a distribution of charter students in North Carolina (as a percentage of all public school students) here (for FY 2019). Scroll all the way down to find a state map for 2011-2012.

Access data and research from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.