Inside Charter School Growth: A Look At Openings

Charter school openings have slowed dramatically.

Despite the continued national increase in charter student enrollment, the rate of charter school growth has slowed as fewer and fewer charter schools have opened. Last year, 329 new schools opened—compared to 640 just four years ago—and the rate of charter school growth was at a four-year low. The relatively small number of openings in 2015-16 combined with a steady number of school closures made for the lowest net charter growth in history.

Given that authorizers continue to approve proposals at a steady rate of about 35 percent over the last five years, the slowdown can be attributed, in part, to a national decline in the number of applications. On average, large authorizers each received about seven applications last year, fewer proposals for new schools than at any time in the past five years.

CHARTER SCHOOL APPLICATIONS AND OPENINGS OVER TIME

Note: The number of charter school openings reflects national data on all charter schools, while the average applications received and application approval rate reflects data from NACSA’s annual survey of authorizers overseeing 10 or more charter schools. These authorizers oversee more than 70 percent of all charter schools across the country.