Despite the growing number of charter schools in the United States, the overall enrollment at public schools decreased this year. However, the number of students attending public charter schools grew by almost seven percent, or nearly 10,000 students. The largest increases in enrollment were among Asian students, who increased by 16% while enrollments of Hispanic and Black students increased by 5% and 6%, respectively. Meanwhile, enrollments of students with disabilities also increased, ranging from four percent to six percent.
While enrollment increases in charter schools have benefited some students, the results of this study are inconsistent. Unlike prior studies, the authors were unable to distinguish between white students and their non-Charter school counterparts in terms of achievement. The gains may reflect the impact of charter schools on the enrolled students, while other factors may explain the resulting gaps. Nonetheless, the results are consistent with previous research on the impact of charter schools on students’ achievement. Further, these results do not account for differences in ethnicity or poverty among the enrolled students.
A long and complicated history underlies the controversy. As early as the 1960s, conservative academics and economists argued for school choice. Milton Friedman argued for the creation of vouchers for needy families and for market forces to shape education. But despite the widespread support for charters, the movement has been opposed by the teacher’s unions. In March, Trump urged Congress to fund choice and increased its role as the face of public education.