Tar Heel state secures third place in charter school growth

By David N. Bass

Raleigh, NC – The Tar Heel state is third best in the nation for the growth of public charter schools during the pandemic, trailing only Texas and Florida, according to a new report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

photo by Aaron Burden

Nationwide, charter schools have gained more than 300,000 students since the 2019-2020 school year, while traditional public schools have lagged in recovering the 1.5 million students who fled the system during the pandemic, the report noted.

Zeroing in on North Carolina, charter enrollments grew from 118,597 for the 2019-20 school year to 140,905 for the 2022-23 school year — 19% growth. Meanwhile, traditional public school enrollments dropped by around 3% during the same time period.

“North Carolina has embraced the idea that parents deserve a choice in their children’s school, and parents are responding,” said Lindalyn Kakadelis, executive director of the NC Coalition for Charter Schools, in a statement. “Importantly, the state’s charter movement also continues to diversity as it grows, as this report makes clear. Public charter schools offer something different, from innovative curricula to concentrations in STEM, the arts, and more — representing an appealing option for families across demographic groups.”

On the diversity front, black and Hispanic students represent a growing share of charter school enrollment increases. Charter enrollments for black students were up 20% during the pandemic, and 37% for Hispanic students.

The state’s network of charter schools heads into 2024 with strong headwinds. A recent change in the way new charters are approved means more schools could soon be opening. As of April, an estimated 77,000 students were on waitlists for charters across the state.


David Bass is a senior contributor to the Carolina Journal.