While North Carolina’s traditional public schools lost students this year, charter school enrollment has more than doubled since the state lifted a 100-school cap in 2011.
Ann Doss Helms of the Charlotte Observer reported:
“State tallies show 168 charter schools had 91,815 students in the first month of this school year, compared with 45,215 in 100 schools five years earlier. In the past year, charter schools gained 9,630 students while district schools lost about 3,400, the average daily membership reports show. Seventy-five of the state’s 115 districts reported fewer students this year than last year..
‘Basically the growth in the state is being absorbed by charter schools and home schooling,’ said Alexis Schauss, the state’s director of school business.
Charter schools, which are independent public schools that report to nonprofit boards, still account for only 6 percent of North Carolina’s 1.5 million K-12 students. But their role in public education is growing even faster than their numbers, as state and federal officials show increasing enthusiasm for offering families alternatives to traditional public schools.
North Carolina officials continue to wrestle with the best way to expand successful charter schools while closing or improving those that get into trouble. This week the state Board of Education is scheduled to discuss several charter school issues, from a new takeover process that will be tested with Charlotte’s Community Charter School to the annual data report required by the General Assembly.
Schauss says state officials actually projected an even bigger loss for school districts based on recent trends. Not only are new schools opening at a rapid clip, but many are starting with bigger enrollment than the early schools did. Meanwhile, successful existing charter schools are expanding.