by Cole Lauterbach
Arizona’s charter schools experienced a rush of new applications amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released a compilation of state-by-state data on charter school enrollment compared with enrollment in the 2019-2020 school year. It found nearly 240,000 new students enrolled in charter schools nationally, a 7% increase from the prior year.
The report, released Wednesday, said the pandemic forcing schools to educate children remotely led to frustrated parents who saw charters and private schools welcoming students back to classrooms.
“During the 2020-21 school year, the pandemic forced schools of all types to close their doors and switch to remote learning,” the report said. “Many families were dissatisfied with the quality of what was available to their children. And that dissatisfaction led them to learn more about the other educational options available. For many families, charter schools’ nimbleness and flexibility made them the right public school choice.”
Arizona’s charter districts increased by 18,429 students in the most recent school year, an 8.6% increase. Meanwhile, public school districts experienced one of their most significant decreases in years. Public districts reported 56,979 fewer students year-over-year, according to Arizona Department of Education data, amounting to a 6% decrease in public school enrollment.
“Charter schools have continued to grow in Arizona, even during the pandemic, further validating our position in public education,” Arizona Charter Schools Association President Jake Logan said. “It’s a testament to our teachers, faculty, and charter leaders for providing a quality education for Arizona students.”
With the increase, Arizona is the first state to see 20% of public school students enrolled in charter schools. In the current school year, 232,249 students attend the state’s charter schools, while the state lists public school enrollment at 880,358.
The Grand Canyon state is known nationally for laws and funding formulas conducive to private and charter schools.
Of all states that provided information, Oklahoma saw the largest shift to charter schools with a 77% increase in enrollment year-over-year.
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Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.
Photo “Charter School Hallway” by National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.