As California Charter School Enrollment Rises, Districts May Feel Effects

By Arianna Prothero — November 18, 2014 1 min read
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Over a half-million California students are currently enrolled in charter schools, according to an estimate released today by the California Charter Schools Association.

The group says charter school enrollment grew by seven percent to 547,800 since the 2013-14 school year, with the highest increases in Los Angeles. For context, that statewide growth is roughly in line with the national charter sector’s annual growth, and enrollment in California’s noncharter public schools is over 5 million.

The continued growth in charter schools could take its toll on the Los Angeles Unified School District. Moody’s Investor Service recently deemed the planned expansion of the KIPP charter school network in Los Angeles a credit negative for the 640,000-student district, according to The Bond Buyer, a daily newspaper covering the municipal bond industry. Moody’s analysts said KIPP’s expansion will worsen LAUSD’s downward enrollment trend, hurting revenues. Here’s more from The Bond Buyer:

LAUSD has experienced a 20% decline in enrollment over the last 10 years and more than 40% of that figure was lost to charter schools, Moody's said. The projected increase in enrollment for KIPP and resultant loss for LAUSD represents a $35 million decrease in ongoing revenues for the school district, according to the report."

Despite growth in the charter sector, demand does not appear to be satisfied. The California Charter Schools Association estimates that around 91,000 students are currently on charter school waitlists around the state.

California is home to more charter schools than any other state with over 1,000 campuses or about 10 percent of all public schools. However, in terms of market share, the District of Columbia outflanks all its state peers with charters making up about 47 percent of all public schools, followed by Arizona at around 24 percent. That’s according to data from the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.

California was an early charter-adopter, passing its law in 1992.

Related: KIPP Plans to Double Number of Los Angeles Schools, Students

Related: Calif. Teachers’ Union Is Getting “Serious About Charter School Organizing”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.