NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

National Charter School Week Recap

May 18, 2015

Some view public charter schools as testing labs for traditional public schools, while others view charter schools as alternatives to traditional public schools. With one million student names on charter school wait lists across America, parents are clearly demanding better educational options, says NCPA senior research fellow Lloyd Bentsen IV.

The charter school movement is growing. With the passage of Alabama's charter school law earlier this year, 43 states and the District of Columbia now welcome public charter schools and are working to meet the demand.

  • There is currently more than 6,700 schools serving around 3 million charter school students in the United States.
  • Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes recently conducted a study of urban charter schools and found that students enrolled in urban charters gain the equivalent of 40 additional days of learning in math and 28 additional days of learning in reading compared to their peers in traditional public schools.
  • Across the country, there are about 1 million names on charter school wait lists ― an increase of 186 percent since 2008.
  • New York has 70,210 charter school students and another 163,000 names on wait lists.
  • In Boston the wait lists contain 25,700 names, 35,000 in Houston; 68,000 in Los Angeles and 18,500 in Washington, D.C.

Once launched, charters rely mostly on state and local funds to operate. A report from researchers at the University of Arkansas showed that public charter schools on average receive just 72 percent of the funding provided to traditional public schools. In Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence last week signed legislation to provide higher per-pupil funding for charter schools and low-interest loans to help charter operators pay for facilities (charter schools can't tap bond markets the way school districts can). More states need to follow Indiana's lead.

Whether charter schools are a yardstick competition for traditional public schools meant to test different ideas or serve as an alternative to those schools, charter schools are in high demand. If charter schools are working for our students, then we must do more to lift the caps and limitations of charter schools and charter school law in each state.

Source: Lloyd Bentsen IV, "National Charter School Week Recap," National Center for Policy Analysis, May 12, 2015. 


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