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Public K-12 enrollment declined 3% nationwide, new federal data show

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New preliminary federal data show a 3% decline in public K-12 enrollment nationwide. This figure is for 2020-21, compared to 2019-20. Declines were highest in the lower grades, especially among the youngest students:

  • Pre-K and Kindergarten enrollments declined 13%.
  • Grades 1-8 decreased 3%.
  • High school grades (9-12) declined 0.4%.

Across the nation, some states hit harder than others

States had uneven rates of decline. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which released the data, notes:

Within states, the largest decreases were in Mississippi and Vermont (5 percent each), followed by Washington, New Mexico, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Maine (each between 4 and 5 percent) (figure 1). Eighteen states had decreases of 3 percent or more; 29 states had decreases between 1 and 3 percent; and the District of Columbia, South Dakota, and Utah had changes of less than 1 percent.

The map below shows where enrollment downturns were most concentrated.

Map from the National Center for Education Statistics

Public enrollment declines do not tell the full story

North Carolina’s drop in public K-12 enrollment was just under 3%. However, as state data affirm, the decline in public enrollment was concentrated among district public schools.

Enrollment at NC public charter schools, on the other hand, increased at every grade level. The state’s charter schools added 9,000 students in 2020-21. As a result, public charter enrollment rose 7.7%.

Congressional amendment protecting charter funding fails

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We have an update for you on H.R. 4502. Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. House Committee on Rules held its meeting on the bill. As we shared earlier, this bill includes language that threatens federal funding for public charter schools. Language in H.R. 4502 stipulates:
“None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act may be awarded to a charter school that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school.” (SEC. 314)

Amendment defeated on a party line vote

A number of lawmakers submitted an amendment (also found here, under Item 16) striking the language in SEC. 314. Unfortunately, that amendment was defeated by a 4-9 party line vote yesterday. Congresswoman Deborah Ross, a Democrat and the U.S. Representative serving North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District (Wake), voted against the amendment, and therefore, against protecting federal funding for charter schools. Congressman Patrick McHenry, a Republican and the U.S. Representative serving North Carolina’s 10th Congressional District, was a co-sponsor of the amendment. Read his statement here.

Record of the motion and the vote

Here is the record of the motion and the vote from the U.S. House Committee on Rules webpage (click here and scroll most of the way down to access Committee Action and this particular vote, Rules Committee Record Vote No. 129):
“Motion by Mrs. Fischbach to amend the rule to make in order amendment #16 to division A (LHHS), offered by Rep. Wilson (SC), which strikes section 314 of division A which prohibits funds made available by this Act or any other Act from being awarded to a charter school that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school.”
Majority Member Vote
Rep. Torres: Nay
Rep. Perlmutter: Nay
Rep. Raskin: Nay
Rep. Scanlon: Nay
Rep. Morelle: Nay
Rep. DeSaulnier: Nay
Rep. Ross: Nay
Rep. Neguse: Nay
Rep. McGovern, Chairman: Nay
Minority Member Vote
Rep. Cole: Yea
Rep. Burgess: Yea
Rep. Reschenthaler: Yea
Rep. Fischbach: Yea

Taking action; next steps for H.R. 4502

H.R. 4502 has now passed out of the U.S. House Committee on Rules and is on its way to the House Floor. The concerning language in SEC. 314 remains intact.
Charter advocates nationwide are joining together to take action. The Coalition was one of 70 groups that sent a letter to congressional leaders today, urging lawmakers to restore funding to the federal Charter Schools Program and to remove the language targeting charter schools in H.R. 4502. You can read the letter and a statement from the Foundation for Excellence in Education here.
We expect H.R. 4502 to pass in the House. Please take action to protect federal funding for charter schools. Find more information from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools here about what to do. We do expect that the fight to defeat this provision and safeguard charter funding will take place in the Senate. We will keep you posted!

UPDATE ON H.R. 4502–ANOTHER CALL TO ACTION

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A call to action

We have an update for you on H.R. 4502 and a call for urgent action. As you know from our earlier call to action, congressional lawmakers have been considering a bill with language threatening federal funding for public charter schools.
Language in H.R. 4502 stipulates:
“None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act may be awarded to a charter school that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school.” (SEC. 314)
Thank you to those of you who have already taken action to share your views on this bill! By Wednesday at 5 p.m., a number of lawmakers had submitted an amendment (also found here, under Item 16) that would strike the language in SEC. 314. The amendment is sponsored by the following lawmakers:
  • Rep. Wilson (SC)
  • Rep. Letlow (LA)
  • Rep. Calvert (CA)
  • Rep. Norman (SC)
  • Rep. Owens (UT)
  • Rep. McHenry (NC)
  • Rep. LaMalfa (CA)
  • Rep. Webster (FL)
  • Rep. Lesko (AZ)
  • Rep. Biggs (AZ)
  • Rep. Cawthorn (NC)
  • Rep. Timmons (SC)
  • Rep. Moolenaar (MI)
  • Rep. Huizenga (MI)
  • Rep. Good (VA)
  • Rep. Grothman (WI)
  • Rep. Fitzgerald (WI)

Next steps for H.R. 4502

The U.S. House Committee on Rules will meet on Monday, July 26, at 2:00 p.m. on H.R. 4502. Please reach out to your representative (find more information about North Carolina’s delegation here) and to Congresswoman Deborah Ross to share your views. Rep. Ross is the only lawmaker from North Carolina who serves as a member of the U.S. House Committee on Rules.

Contact information for Rep. Ross

Washington, DC phone number for Rep. Ross: (202) 225-3032
Raleigh, NC number for Rep. Ross: (919) 334-0840
Please call the numbers above and ask that SECTION 314 be removed from H.R. 4502. In addition, please educate your parents on this bill. You can educate as a non-profit. Tell parents about Section 314 and how Section 314 impacts your school and their child. Encourage them to contact Rep. Ross regarding their opinions. You can relate to your parents that this request came from the NC Coalition for Charter Schools.
Rep. Ross must hear from North Carolinians and local constituents–like school leaders, business leaders, teachers, and parents–that this language will hurt charter school students who are singled out in the federal appropriations bill.

Potential impacts for charters

As the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has pointed out, SECTION 314
“… singles out one type of public schools—charter schools—and threatens them with the loss of ALL of their federal funds if they contract with private companies for services. The language is so vague that merely contracting for food services or back-office payroll support could put their Title I, IDEA and school meals funding at risk.”
What happens if this language is not removed and goes to the House Floor? If the bill secures passage with SECTION 314 intact, we will need to work to stop it in the Senate. This may be a marathon, not a sprint. We will keep you updated, but please act now!

Immediate action: congressional bill threatens charter funding

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A bill headed to the House Rules Committee tomorrow threatens federal funding for charter schools. Changes need to be made to the bill as soon as possible. Please take action.

Language in H.R. 4502

Because of the threat, we want Section 314 to be removed, as it has major implications for public charter schools. Here is the language from the bill, H.R. 4502 (Section 314, page 161):
SEC. 314. None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act may be awarded to a charter school that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school.
What does this mean? As the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has written,

All schools—district, charter, magnet, and private—contract with businesses to provide students with services and supplies that they need. Charter school leaders would be forced to choose between accessing the federal funds their students are entitled to or working with businesses to provide the supplies and services their students need.

School leaders, please educate your parents about this bill.  You can educate as a non-profit. Tell parents about Section 314 and how it impacts your school and their child. Encourage them to contact their representatives regarding their opinions.  You can relate to your parents this request came from the NC Coalition for Charter Schools.
Find more information about your congressional representative here.

Take action: congressional bill threatens charter funding

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This weekend, the Coalition sent out a call to action to charter leaders across North Carolina. Here’s what we said:

A call to action

Congressional lawmakers are considering a bill that threatens federal funding for charter schools. Here’s the language in the House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill:
“None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act may be awarded to a charter school that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school.” (SEC. 314)
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is urging charter supporters to act. The Alliance’s call to action for school leaders explains what this bill could mean for charter schools:
“It means that your school’s contracts—for lunch, buses, computers, cleaning, plumbing, curriculum, and just about everything else—could make you ineligible for federal funding from not just the Charter Schools Program, but also Title I, IDEA, and COVID-relief.
This language is a clear attack on our schools and our students and we must act now to ensure it does not pass.”

Learn more

  • Read a blog post with more information about the bill from Kim McCabe, Senior Director of Communications at the Alliance.
  • Read a statement from Nina Rees, President & CEO at the Alliance.

Next steps

Please follow through with the Alliance’s call to action by clicking here. However, if you have personal relationships with any members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation, please let Lindalyn know (704.231.9767; lkakadelis@nc.chartercoalition.org) so we can coordinate our strategy. Timing and messaging are very important. Find more information about North Carolina’s delegation here.
We will be watching this legislation closely and will be making our congressional delegation aware of how this affects our state. Stay tuned!

Trends in charter enrollment nationwide

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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.

Resources for charters to build community partnerships

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Would you like to build better community partnerships for your charter school? Are you looking for practical insights from other schools? Then, consider joining the National Charter School Resource Center for a virtual summer chat!

Summer chats highlight best practices

An initiative of the federal Charter School Program, NCSRC is hosting three short chats over Zoom. The chats begin next Tuesday and explore NCSRC’s new publication, How Charter Schools Can Leverage Community Assets through Partnership. As a result, you’ll hear about actual examples from schools that received Charter School Program grants.
Chats are scheduled for the following Tuesdays at 2 p.m.: July 20, July 27, and August 3.  Chats are 30 minutes apiece. Click on a date to go directly to the Zoom registration page, or click here to learn more.

Enrollments grow in charter, home, and private schools

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More and more parents are choosing non-traditional school options for their children. Data for 2020-21 show rising enrollments in N.C. charter, home, and private schools.

New statistics for 2020-21 reveal:

  • Home school enrollments grew by nearly 31,000 students. This marks a 20.6% increase over the year before. (Find a statistical overview here.)
  • Private school enrollments rose by almost 3,400 students. This marks a 3.3% uptick over the year before. (Find a statistical overview here.)

Meanwhile, public charter schools added 9,000 students in 2020-21. This represents a 7.7% increase, making public charter schools second only to home schools in enrollment growth.

Is the enrollment story being told clearly and fully? Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis shares some observations:

The recent News & Observer article, “Enrollment soars in N.C. home schools, private schools and charter schools amid pandemic,” tracks closely with enrollment trends in nonpublic education. However, the article doesn’t fully address enrollment shifts in public education, and in some cases, uses language that is needlessly confusing.

For example, the 9,000-student increase in N.C. public charter enrollment is positioned under a header with this wording: “Will students return to public schools?” Public charter schools are identified simply as “taxpayer funded schools.” This is unnecessarily confusing. Charter schools are public schools. They are funded by local, state, and federal taxpayer dollars, just like district public schools.

Here’s a more complete summary from the state’s latest annual charter report: During the 2020-21 school year, N.C. charter schools experienced growth at every grade level. Additionally, 78% of charter schools reported waitlists totaling nearly 76,000 students. This is markedly different from enrollment declines at district public schools.

The pandemic accelerated trends that were already underway. Families are flocking to nontraditional schooling options now in even greater numbers—in public and nonpublic sectors alike.

Congratulations, 2021 charter school graduates!

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Congratulations, 2021 charter school graduates!

In recognition of graduates’ achievements, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools compiled stories from 16 seniors nationwide. Recently, the Alliance featured the stories through its #CharterGrads social media campaign. Check out the student stories here.

Highlighting a NC charter school graduate

One featured student, Madison Lawson, graduated from a North Carolina charter school. Madison attended Millenium Charter Academy in Mt. Airy, NC. Congratulations, Madison!

A recipient of the prestigious Goodnight Scholarship, Madison is headed to NC State University in the fall. She’ll be part of NC State’s horticulture program and hopes to pursue a career focusing on genetic engineering.

Madison attended Millenium Charter from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade. In a video interview with the Alliance, Madison reflects on what stands out to her about attending a public charter school:

“Being in a charter school gives you a lot more freedom than being in a traditional public school would, because they’re able to do a little more than public school guidelines would allow.”

Watch the full video interview with Madison here.

Shareable resources: understanding public charter schools

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Are you looking for simple resources to share about public charter schools? Misconceptions about charter schools abound! It’s helpful to have answers at the ready.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has a number of resources you can share with those in your community. This can help you tell the story of charter schools and respond to common questions. This short video (less than two minutes long) provides a high-level description of charter schools.

Want more in-depth answers to questions? Find a FAQ document here, with answers to the most frequent questions people have about charter schools.

Finally, the Alliance has a short write-up on how charter schools are reimagining public education. You can find that here.