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Alabama’s Exponential Growth in Charter School Enrollment

Alabama’s Exponential Growth in Charter School Enrollment

December 20, 2023

Earlier this month, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released Believing in Public Education: A Demographic and State-level Analysis of Public Charter School and District Public School Enrollment Trends, a new data analysis of public school enrollment during the last four school years (2019-2023). During this time, charter schools gained more than 300,000 new students, an increase of 9%. Meanwhile, district public schools lost 1.5 million students at the beginning of the pandemic and enrollment has not rebounded over the past three years, creating a net loss of 3.5%. 

One more state’s data has just become available—Alabama—and we wanted to provide an update.  

Alabama experienced exponential growth in charter school enrollment over the past four years. Thanks to improvements to the charter school law and community leaders opening new schools to serve families with a high quality education, charter schools gained more than 4,100 students over the past four school years—that’s a 376% increase! District schools lost more than 14,000 students during the same time period.

State
2019-20 Charter Enrollment
2019-20 Non-Charter Public Enrollment
2020-21 Charter Enrollment
2020-21 Non-Charter Public Enrollment
2021-22 Charter Enrollment
2021-22 Non-Charter Public Enrollment
2022-23 Charter Enrollment
2022-23 Non-Charter Public Enrollment
Four-Year Charter Change
Four-Year Non-Charter Public Change
% Charter Change
% Non-Charter Public Change
Alabama
1,116
739,002
1,844
727,942
3,346
732,538
5,314
724,475
4,198
(14,527)
+376.16
-1.97%
Total*
3,346,027
44,253,366
3,579,816
42,722,245
3,576,427
42,714,953
3,650,636
42,714,348
304,609
(1,539,018)
+9.10%
-3.48%

Earlier this month, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released Believing in Public Education: A Demographic and State-level Analysis of Public Charter School and District Public School Enrollment Trends, a new data analysis of public school enrollment during the last four school years (2019-2023). During this time, charter schools gained more than 300,000 new students, an increase of 9%. Meanwhile, district public schools lost 1.5 million students at the beginning of the pandemic and enrollment has not rebounded over the past three years, creating a net loss of 3.5%. 

One more state’s data has just become available—Alabama—and we wanted to provide an update.  

Alabama experienced exponential growth in charter school enrollment over the past four years. Thanks to improvements to the charter school law and community leaders opening new schools to serve families with a high quality education, charter schools gained more than 4,100 students over the past four school years—that’s a 376% increase! District schools lost more than 14,000 students during the same time period.

Alabama now has 14 public charter schools, including a few schools that have opened in the past couple years. Covenant Academy of Mobile opened this past August. We talked to Head of School Brenda Hartzog to learn more about the new school and she shared a vision for maintaining a positive learning environment where students take ownership of their learning and learn the tools to be productive and caring contributors in a changing world. 

Alabama Aerospace & Aviation High School opened in 2022 and provides students in Bessemer with an outstanding high school education while leaning on robust industry partnerships to offer clearly defined pathways for students to enter aviation and aerospace careers.  

In 2021, two schools opened to welcome students for the first time: Magic City Acceptance Academy, facilitating a community in which all learners are empowered to embrace education, achieve individual success, and take ownership of their future in a brave, LGBTQ-affirming learning environment; and Breakthrough Charter School, serving students in Perry County and preparing students for success as citizens and leaders by providing a rigorous, service-oriented, and project-based public school that supports the social-emotional development of each individual child. 

Alabama law permits district leaders and school boards to turnaround underperforming district schools by converting them to a charter school. There are three conversion charter schools in Alabama. With the support of the Montgomery Education Foundation and Phalen Leadership Academies, these schools work together with parents and the community to improve the educational outcomes of scholars and neighborhood families. The schools serve the local community and create a safe and thriving space for scholars to feel loved, empowered, and encouraged through quality education. The collective aim is to accelerate the improvement of the learning environment to improve outcomes for students at these schools and beyond. 

Alabama’s charter schools offer wonderful opportunities for teachers as well. This year, the National Alliance honored Nathaniel Dunn III, a 3rd grade teacher at i3 Academy in Birmingham, with a 2023 Changemaker Award. Nathaniel is an inspiring educator who was previously been honored as the 2021 Henry Nelson Teacher of Excellence by the Alabama Charter School Commission. Nathaniel’s passion is driven by the desire to be the kind of teacher he wish he had growing up. As a teacher, Nathaniel doesn’t shy away from new methods and innovation. Outside of his regular school day, he is an EdFarm Teacher Fellow where he is equipped to be a designer and facilitator of future-focused learning. Nathaniel’s impact also extends outside of his classroom as a long-time baseball coach and mentor in his community. 

Alabama’s lawmakers continue to improve the charter school law to pave the way for more public education opportunities for families and communities. In the 2023 legislative session, Alabama provided $10 million in one-time supplemental funding to charter schools, to be distributed on a per-pupil basis; secured $400,000 in funding for pre-planning grants for founding groups to write strong applications; clarified that conversion charter schools should get all of the per pupil dollars associated with the school. 

The future looks bright for Alabama’s charter schools and the families they serve!  

Jennifer Diaz is the vice president of communications at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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