5,000 is Not Enough - Charter Schools Reach "Tipping Point" as Wait Lists Expand.
WASHINGTON, DC - As more low-income and minority parents seek to remove their children from traditional public schools that chronically underperform, waiting lists for America's public charter schools have grown dramatically, a report released today reveals. According to The Center for Education Reform (CER), an average of 239 children are waiting to enter each charter school in America, demonstrating a 21 percent surge in parental demand for charters over last year.
Because laws in most states either limit the number of students who can enter charters, prohibit multiple authorities from authorizing the creation of charters, or limit the number of schools themselves, demand for charter schools now dramatically outpaces supply, the Annual Survey of America's Charter Schools 2010 indicates. In fact, 65 percent of U.S. charter schools have waiting lists, up from 59 percent in 2008, and some schools' waiting lists are more than three times the size of the schools themselves. The average charter school size is 372 students and it is estimated that the number of students on waiting lists would fill another 5,000 charter schools.
In Texas alone, it is estimated that 40,000 children are on waiting lists for charters schools. In Boston, the number is 8,000. As state lawmakers finalize applications this week for a share of the federal government's $4.3 billion 'Race to the Top' education fund, reformers are hoping that legislators will expand access to quality schools for families.
"We frequently talk about the problems plaguing America's education system," said Jeanne Allen, president of The Center for Education Reform. "Charter schools and school choice demonstrate what's working in American education. When provided with good choices, parents make informed decisions and select the best schools for their children. Lawmakers should listen to their constituents and expand access to charter schools by allowing multiple authorities to create schools, ensuring fiscal equity, allowing schools to operate with more freedom, and lifting arbitrary caps on the number of schools permitted to open."
Data indicates that low-income and minority families make up the bulk of the parents seeking entrance into charters-meaning that new charter schools would primarily benefit low-income children and children of color. Already, more than 54 percent of students in charters are classified as poor, half of America's charter schools serve student populations where 60+ percent of the children are poor, and children of color comprise 52 percent of charter school attendees.
Surprisingly, charter schools have achieved their popularity not through big budgets that let them spend lavishly (in fact, the average charter school receives $3,468 less in state and federal funds than the traditional public school), but by offering programs, services, and teaching formulas that parents want but can't find in traditional public schools.
For example, about 54 percent of charter schools allow for the possibility of performance pay programs for teachers, an incentive system that parents favor. Charter schools are also more likely to be smaller than traditional public schools and offer more instruction time-other factors that increase demand. Interestingly, 76 percent of charter schools offer a specific instructional theme-with more than a quarter of the schools specifically designed to prepare students for college.
"Good charter schools offer a refreshing lack of bureaucracy and red tape, allowing these schools to serve students, teachers, and the community in more effective ways," said Kevin P. Chavous, a distinguished fellow at CER.
In addition to demonstrating the demand for charters, the survey highlights both the operational and financial realities faced by the country's more than 5,000 charter schools. CER's Annual Survey of America's Charter Schools 2010 is the only national overview of the day-to-day operations of charters, as reported directly from the schools themselves. The survey is based on a comprehensive analysis from responses provided by nearly 1,000 out of America's 5,000 charter schools.
For more information or to download a copy of the survey, visit www.edreform.com.