Demand for charter school places surged by 21 percent last year, reports the Center for Education Reform’s Annual Survey of America’s Charter Schools 2010. Wait lists have grown to an average of 239 children per charter school.
In fact, 65 percent of U.S. charter schools have waiting lists, up from 59 percent in 2008, and some schools’ waiting lists are more than three times the size of the schools themselves. The average charter school size is 372 students and it is estimated that the number of students on waiting lists would fill another 5,000 charter schools.
Most charter applicants come from low-income and minority families.
Already, more than 54 percent of students in charters are classified as poor, half of America’s charter schools serve student populations where 60+ percent of the children are poor, and children of color comprise 52 percent of charter school attendees.
The average charter school receives $3,468 less in state and federal funds than the traditional public school, the survey finds.
A majority of charter schools offer performance pay programs for teachers. Charter also tend to be smaller than traditional public schools and offer a longer school day. Some 76 percent of charter schools offer a specific instructional theme; more than a quarter are designed to prepare students for college.
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has published its rankings of state charter laws. In hopes of getting Race To The Top money, the Massachusetts Legislature has voted to lift the cap on charters; New York is still debating.