Since the pandemic began, Pennsylvania’s public charter schools enrollment has gone up by almost 12% as parents have chosen to take their children out of traditional public schools.
According to a new report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the change isn’t unique to Pennsylvania. Since the 2019-20 school year, the 41 states examined in the report with charter systems had a 7% increase in charter school enrollment and about a 3.5% decrease in public school enrollment.
In Pennsylvania, the drop was slightly less, about 3.2%.
The changes aren’t simply a result of population change, according to the report.
“Charter school enrollment growth, both overall and for white, Black, and Hispanic students, is outpacing school-aged (ages 5 to 17) population growth in most states included in our analysis,” the report says.
While charter schools have benefited since the pandemic, they haven’t gotten the majority of students who left public districts.
“In the 25 states we examined, we found that white student enrollment in charter schools increased by nearly 30,000 students, Black student enrollment increased by nearly 35,000 students, and Hispanic student enrollment increased by slightly more than 95,000 students,” the report says. “At the same time, the district sector lost more than 920,000 white students, nearly 180,000 Black students, and slightly more than 140,000 Hispanic students.”
The majority of parents who switched their children say the change was positive. The pandemic pushed them to pay more attention to their children’s education, too.
“Seventy-eight percent say they became more involved in their child’s education because of what they saw of their children’s education during the pandemic,” the report said.
Nationally, about 240,000 students switched to public charter schools since 2019-20 while other public schools lost almost 1.5 million students.
That loss worried the Charter School Alliance.
“The numbers in this report are more sobering than celebratory. Although the National Alliance advocates on behalf of charter schools, we too are part of the overall public school ecosystem. We take no joy in this mass exodus from district schools,” the report said. “The point is not simply that parents prefer one type of public school over another. The bigger takeaway is that we are experiencing a parent revolution, spurred by the pandemic, and likely here to stay.”
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Josh Shapiro – the governor-elect – has shown support for expanding school choice and charter schools have improved test scores in recent years. Democrats hold the majority in the Pennsylvania House, and Republicans have the edge in the Senate.