D.C. charter school enrollment now at 47 percent of all public school students

Last Friday the Office of the State Superintendent of Education released unaudited 2017-to-2018 student enrollment statistics for DCPS and charters based upon the October count.  It demonstrated that charters now serve 47 percent of all pupils attending public school in the nation’s capital, up a point from the previous year.

Charters may never reach funding equity with the traditional schools with the recent loss of the FOCUS-engineered lawsuit, but when it comes to student population it appears that the sector is nearing the identical number that is taught by the traditional system.  The difference is now only 4,740 scholars, with 48,169 in DCPS and 43,429 in charters.  Over the last decade charter school enrollment has grown 49.5 percent.  Twenty years ago, in only its second year of operation, D.C. charters taught 300 students.  This is truly phenomenal growth.

91,537 students now attend public school in the District, which represents the ninth consecutive year that this number has risen.  This statistic is 1.6 percent greater than in 2016.  DCPS classrooms, after years of declining enrollment due to competition from charter schools, first experienced greater demand during the 2009-to-2010 school year.  Michelle Rhee became the city’s first Chancellor in the summer of 2007.  Interestingly, the traditional schools showed a slight drop in enrollment over the last 12 months; last year it was at 48,555 students.

Parental demand for charters is strong.  Last April the DC Public Charter School Board reported that there were 9,703 students on charter school wait lists.  In addition, families are also choosing quality.  The same body reported in March that approximately 96 percent of of all children attending charters are going to either a Tier 1 or Tier 2 facility, the two top categories as ranked by the Performance Management Framework.

The D.C. charter school movement appears to be in a exceptionally strong state.


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