Charters in California set the pace for growth nationally

Charters in California set the pace for growth nationally

(Calif.) With their candidate poised to win election as state schools chief, charter advocates in California can also claim enrollment that has surpassed 660,000 statewide—almost double of that in any other state.

According to statistics released late last week by the California Charter Schools Association, there are now a total of 1,323 charter schools in California as of the 2018-19 school year.

The most recent national data, which is based on last year’s enrollment, shows Texas with the second largest charter system in the U.S. with 774 schools and just under 340,000 students.

Florida is next, with 661 charter schools and 302,000 students, followed by New York’s 281 schools and 141,000 students.

“It is gratifying to see that we have so many new schools this year because it shows the demand from parents who want more options for their children,” said Jed Wallace, president and CEO of CCSA in a statement. “Even as we see resistance from authorizing districts, we have dedicated charter school leaders and parents who are undeterred in their fight to open a school that puts kids first.”

Nationally, charters have probably never been stronger with the support of the Trump administration and, until last Tuesday’s election, a Republican majority in Congress.

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, there are 7,000 charter schools nationally, with a total enrollment of 3.2 million.

The group estimated that, combined, charter schools are receiving about $440 million in program funding.

The growth in California is somewhat surprising given the decades-long struggle charters have endured with employee groups from traditional public schools—especially the California Teachers Association.

California was the second state in the nation to authorize publicly-funded charter schools with legislation adopted in 1992. They have also enjoyed support from the last two governors—Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown.

The November election is likely to turn out to be a bit of a mixed bag for charters.

In the bitter and expensive race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, former charter executive, Marshall Tuck, continues to hold a slim edge over Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, the favorite of the school employee groups.

The race for schools chief was easily the most expensive for that office in state history, costing more than $50 million even though the job does not provide much authority over policy in the public schools.

The big decisions over K-12 schools are vested with the governor and the governor’s appointees on the California State Board of Education. Legislative leaders also have some power over schools.

Gavin Newsom, the state’s new governor-elect, is firmly inside the traditional public schools realm of influence, as is a large number of lawmakers in both houses.

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