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Charter Schools Keep Winning Students From Union Schools

Sowell has been crushing it for over 50 years. His recent book Charter Schools and their enemies is fantastic. Link below.

Charter Schools Keep Winning Students From Union Schools

Chater enrollment is up 9% in four years, as Hispanics in particular sign up.

By The Editorial Board, WSJ

Dec. 25, 2023

This has been the year for school choice—from vouchers, to homeschooling, to pod schools with parents who use education savings accounts. The winners include charter schools, as union-run K-12 schools lost hundreds of thousands of students during Covid-19 who haven’t returned.

Charter enrollment is up 9% since 2019, while the number of students in district schools is down 3.5%, according to a new study from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Families have discovered choice,” the report says, “and they like it.”

Yes they do. The trend holds for states of all sizes and political persuasions. From 2019-2023, charter enrollment grew in 40 of the 42 states analyzed, while traditional schools lost students in 40 states. Charter attendees surged nearly 20% in Texas (67,148 students), 19% in North Carolina (22,308), and 10% in Pennsylvania (15,353). District enrollment fell 0.83% in Texas and nearly 3% in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Part of the story is that states are working to improve charter offerings. The report says Indiana raised its per-student charter grant to $1,400 from $1,250, while allocating $25 million to a capital fund to help schools with facility costs. Enrollment in Indiana charters is up 9% over four years, versus down 2% for traditional schools. Legislative changes in New Mexico and Idaho come in for kudos as well.

The report flags evidence in New Jersey that growing demand for charters might be eroding political resistance to school choice in a state where public unions have traditionally all but run the government in Trenton.

“In 2022, a number of high-performing public charter schools were denied the opportunity to expand,” it says. But after parents and students raised a ruckus, the state in 2023 “approved 100% of high-quality public charter school expansion requests,” adding 2,300 new seats.

Researchers also examined data by race in 26 states. “Hispanic students make up the fastest-growing community in charter schools,” the report says, up almost 14% in those states, or 150,134 students. Black charter enrollment increased 6.3%, or 40,658 students. Opponents of school choice, who want to deny options to people who can’t afford private tuition, should look these families in the eyes.

These improvements remain too much at the margin, and unions still dominate K-12 school governance in most places. Charters face relentless hostility from school boards and politicians who deny equal funding or co-location in buildings where public schools are losing students and there is room.

But as choice options expand, and students in most charters outperform those in nearby public schools, parents like having the ability to escape schools where failure reigns. Elected officials ignore the new political dynamics at their peril.

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