NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Charters Growing By Leaps And Bounds

February 14, 2000

A new Department of Education study says the number of public charter schools in the U.S. grew by 40 percent in the 1998-99 school year alone -- with seven out of 10 of them maintaining waiting lists. While 37 states plus the District of Columbia have passed charter laws, the data used in the report came from schools in just 27 states -- meaning that the movement could be even more widespread than the report reveals.

  • However, the official numbers reveal a total of 1,484 schools as of September 1999.
  • When multiple branches of a school operating under the same charter are added, the total number of sites rises to 1,605.
  • Nationwide, nearly seven out of 10 charters have a student racial or ethnic composition comparable to that of their surrounding district.
  • The movement is growing most rapidly in the District of Columbia and Arizona which had 4 percent of their public school students enrolled in charters -- with Colorado having 2 percent.

More than one-quarter of a million students now attend charters.

"I think the charter movement has spread farther and faster than any of the people who were involved in its beginnings ever envisioned," says Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota.

Source: Valerie Strauss, "Charter Schools Proliferating, Study Finds," Washington Post, February 11, 2000.


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