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Report: Charter school enrollment increases in Georgia

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(The Center Square) — Georgia’s public charter school enrollment has grown over the last four years while enrollment at traditional schools has declined.

That’s according to state-level data the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools studied for a new report, “Believing in Public Education: A Demographic and State-level Analysis of Public Charter School and District Public School Enrollment Trends.”

It found that charter school enrollment grew by roughly 5.8% or more than 3,800 students from the 2019-20 school year to the 2022-23 school year. Traditional school enrollment declined by roughly 1.3% or more than 22,300 students during the same period.

During the 2022-23 school year, charter school enrollment increased by roughly 1%, outpacing district school enrollment, which grew by 0.6%.

Public charter schools are financed with public money as are conventional public schools and are free to attend, but are independently operated by contractors.

“It’s clear that, for many Georgia families, charter schools are the type of public education that best fits the needs of their children,” Tony Roberts, president and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, said in an announcement. “We must help make a high-quality public education more accessible to more families and remove barriers.”

Georgia previously received an overall B score and ranked 11th nationwide for its education freedom, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 2023 Index of State Education Freedom.

Earlier this year, Georgia lawmakers did not advance Senate Bill 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, a measure that called for taxpayers to cover the cost of scholarships up to $6,500 per student per school year. The proposal would have allowed the families to use the money to defray “qualified” education costs, such as private school tuition.

A representative of the American Federation for Children said lawmakers should heed the trend.

“Changing enrollment numbers in Georgia and in the rest of the country should be taken as a sign that the traditional public education system does not work for every student,” Nathan Cunneen, a communications strategist at the American Federation for Children, told The Center Square via email.

“Some students thrive in traditional public schools, some in public charter schools, and others need the freedom to take their education dollars to the private school of their choice,” Cunneen added. “The Georgia Legislature should focus on creating numerous options for students — these numbers are a sign families want them.”

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