Charter school enrollment has grown significantly over time. Between fall 2000 and fall 2015, overall public charter school enrollment increased from 0.4 million to 2.8 million students, and the percentage of public school students who attended charter schools increased from 1 to 6 percent. The number of charter schools also increased during this period, from 1,990 to 6,860.
The characteristics of charter schools and traditional public schools differ in some ways. A higher percentage of charter schools are located in cities and a lower percentage are located in rural areas as compared to traditional public schools.
There are also some differences in the characteristics of students who attend charter schools and traditional public schools. A higher percentage of charter schools had higher percentages of minority students enrolled. In school year 2015–16, more than half of the students were White in 58 percent of traditional public schools. In comparison, 34 percent of charter schools had more than 50 percent White enrollment. In 9 percent of traditional public schools more than half of students were Black compared to 23 percent for charter schools. In 16 percent of traditional public schools, more than half of students were Hispanic compared to 25 percent for charter schools.
High-poverty schools are those in which more than 75 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) under the National School Lunch Program. In the 2015–16 school year, 24 percent of traditional public schools were high-poverty compared with 35 percent of public charter schools. In contrast, low-poverty schools–in which less than 25 percent of students qualify for FRPL–accounted for 16 percent of traditional public schools and 21 percent of public charter schools.
Access indicators from the Condition of Education on the characteristics of traditional public schools and public charter schools as well as charter school enrollment for more data!
By Lauren Musu