Two years ago, NAPCS estimated a national waiting list of 420,000 students who wanted to enroll in public charter schools in the 2009-2010 academic year. That seemed like such a large number! Today NAPCS released an even larger national waiting list estimate. Based on a national survey of charter schools, NAPCS estimates that there were 610,000 students on waiting lists to attend charters in the fall of 2011.
Let’s put that number in perspective. The average charter school enrolls 350 students. That means that the waiting list could fill an additional 1,700 charter schools. Adding 610,000 charter school seats to meet the demand would grow the sector by 30 percent. The number of seats equals the number of students currently attending charter schools in two states with the highest charter school enrollment: California and Texas. And on a non-charter school note: 610,000 students would fill seven and a half Olympic Stadiums during this summer’s Olympics in London.
At the 20 year milestone, the charter school sector has matured. You would be hard pressed to find anyone advocating to open 1,700 new charter schools before the beginning of the next school year. Instead, authorizers, charter school support organizations, funders, and incubators are using 20 years of experiences to develop new high quality charter schools and expand charter schools that are proving success. This does have the consequence that many students will remain on waiting lists. Hopefully the large demand for high quality options will promote improvements throughout the entire public school system through policy changes and competitive effects (see a recent study on the impact of charters on public school system).
The Olympic Stadium in Olympic Park, London, England. Photo via Google Images.