Charter school enrollment soared during pandemic, up 7.1% while other public school enrollment fell 3.3%.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has published a report with the provocative (and long) title: “Voting with Their Feet: A State-level Analysis of Public Charter School and District Public School Enrollment Trends.” The group’s announcement highlights the key finding:

Voting with Their Feet: A State-level Analysis of Public Charter School and District Public School Enrollment Trends shows hundreds of thousands of families switched to charter schools during the first full school year of the pandemic. During the 2020-21 school year, charter school enrollment grew 7%, the largest increase in half a decade.

Nearly 240,000 new students enrolled in these innovative, student-centered public schools, despite a sharp decrease in overall public school enrollment during the same period. Of the 42 states evaluated, 39 experienced charter school enrollment increases, while only three saw modest decreases. By comparison, district school enrollment dropped precipitously in every state.

Why?

During the 2020-21 school year, the pandemic forced schools of all types to close their doors and switch to remote learning. Many families were dissatisfied with the quality of what was available to their children. And that dissatisfaction led them to learn more about the other educational options available. For many families, charter schools’ nimbleness and flexibility made them the right public school choice.

Washington, which caps public charter schools, had a big percentage jump, but from a very small base.

A table later in the report shows the state’s charter school enrollment from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021 increased from 3,163 to 3,712, while other public school enrollment fell from 1,137,945 to 1,090,618.

The unanswerable question, of course, how would the enrollment pattern had the state adopted a less restrictive public charter school law? The national data clearly suggests the direction of the trend, if not the magnitude.

We recommend reading the report. More at Axios.