Florida school districts rank high in charter school growth

national alliance of public charter schoolsFlorida school districts are home to some of the fastest-growing charter school sectors in the country, according to a recent report from a national charter school group.

Still, despite their growth in recent years, none of the state’s districts approaches the charter school enrollment share of cities like New Orleans, Cleveland or Detroit, according to the latest annual data released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The report says charter schools are the “fastest-growing school choice option in the U.S. public education system,” growing by 70 percent over the past five years and now enrolling 2.7 million students.

During the 2013-14 school year, on which the report is based, Florida was home to more than one in 12 of those students.

Palm Beach County’s charter school enrollment grew by 34 percent last school year, the second-fastest in the country. It was joined by Orange and Duval Counties among the top 10 districts for charter growth. All three were among the 10 fastest-growing for the second year in a row.

Two of the state’s districts cracked top 10 for their total number of students enrolled in charter schools: Broward and Miami-Dade.

At the same time, none of Florida’s school districts were among the 43 cited in the group’s press release for having more than one in five students attending a charter school.

Broward and Miami-Dade both had about 15 percent of their students enrolled in charters during the 2013-14 school year, a higher percentage than other Florida districts covered in the report.

The report does not include some of Florida’s districts with the highest rates of charter enrollment, which are among its smallest. Franklin County, for example, has a single charter school that enrolls hundreds of students in a district of roughly 1,200.

Mid-sized districts like Sarasota County (with 13 percent of its students enrolled in charters) and Lake County (with 12 percent) follow closely behind Broward and Miami-Dade in the rankings for enrollment share, an indication charters are thriving beyond the state’s largest urban districts.

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BY Travis Pillow

Travis Pillow is Director of Thought Leadership at Step Up For Students and editor of NextSteps. He lives in Sanford, Fla. with his wife and two children. A former Tallahassee statehouse reporter, he most recently worked at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research organization at Arizona State University, where he studied community-led learning innovation and school systems' responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. He can be reached at tpillow (at) sufs.org.