Enrollment in charter schools has soared to more than 2 million students, as states have passed laws lifting caps on those schools and encouraging their expansion, according to figures released last week by a national charter school group.
The growth represents the largest increase in enrollment over a single year since the first such largely independent public schools began operating two decades ago, the report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says. In all, more than 500 new charter schools were opened for the 2011-12 school year, it says, and about 200,000 more students are enrolled now than a year before. That is an increase of 13 percent nationwide.
“This 2 million-student mark is quite significant,” said Ursula Wright, the interim chief executive officer of the nonprofit group, based in Washington. “It demonstrates increased demand by families who want to see more high-quality education options for their children.”
Ms. Wright and others attribute the boom in large part to the Obama administration’s $4 billion Race to the Top competition, which rewarded states for taking on ambitious education changes that included expanding charter schools. To qualify, many states changed laws to encourage the growth. Sixteen states have lifted caps on the number of charter schools and enrollment in them over the past three years, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.
A version of this article appeared in the December 15, 2011 edition of Education Week as Number of Students in Charters Rises