Georgia's Public Charter Schools See Growth Amidst Pandemic

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

According to state-level data analyzed by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in a new report, Voting with Their Feet: A State-level Analysis of Public Charter School and District Public School Enrollment Trends, Georgia’s public charter school enrollment grew by 9% or 6,973 students during the 2020-2021 school year. Charter schools in Georgia were also the only public schools to grow their enrollment during that time period. This trend is likely to continue. New statewide polling shows 65% of Georgia’s registered voters support public charter schools.  
Nationally, enrollment in public charter schools increased by 7%, or nearly 240,000 students, from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year. By contrast, district public school enrollment dropped by 1.4 million students, the largest decrease in more than a decade. 
“We believe more Georgia families chose to send their children to public charter schools during the pandemic because charters listened to their local communities when deciding whether to deliver virtual, in-person or hybrid learning options,” said Tony Roberts, President and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. “Charter schools have the ability to move quickly to meet the individual needs of their students. Many have also provided additional services and supplies to families in need during this challenging time.”
In 2020, the COVID pandemic forced schools of all types to close their doors and switch to remote learning. Many families were dissatisfied with the quality of learning options available to their children, and that dissatisfaction led them to pursue other available educational options. For many families, charter schools’ nimbleness and flexibility made them the right public school choice.  
“As Georgia’s largest public school, GCA is proud that we have been able to offer our students and their families educational continuity in a results-focused environment during this challenging time,” said Angela Lassetter, Superintendent of Georgia Cyber Academy. “We are grateful that we had the ability to expand and serve more of Georgia's families when they needed a safe and high-quality educational option the most and for the support of our board, authorizer, faculty, and staff to do so.  Our proven best practices for virtual learning have not only led to enrollment growth, but to continued gains in academic performance despite the many challenges presented during this pandemic.
According to data published by the Georgia Department of Education, both state and local charter schools experienced an increase in enrollment during the 2020-2021 school year. However, the enrollment growth was most noticeable in state charter schools authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia. Between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, state charter schools experienced a more than 16% increase.
“In these extraordinary times, families want options that meet their students’ unique learning needs,” said Lauren Holcomb, Executive Director of the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia. "As public schools of choice, state charters have served as a vital public resource  and met unprecedented demand from communities seeking innovative, quality options for their students.”
State charter schools with notable enrollment increases between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years include Ethos Classical (90.9%), Genesis Innovation Academy for Boys (18.4%), Georgia Cyber Academy (28.7%), Resurgence Hall Charter School (17.6%) and Utopian Academy for the Arts (53.7%).
Enrollment grew by more than 3% in Georgia’s locally-approved charter schools during the same time period. Atlanta Public Schools (3.9%) and Chatham (19.3%), Clayton (271.9%), Fulton (8.1%), Douglas (0.7%) and Greene counties (3.8%) all experienced charter school enrollment growth.
Georgia is one of 42 states that saw increases in public charter school enrollment during the 2020-2021 school year.
“Charter school enrollment grew in nearly every state – and this trend is not slowing down. Families are voting with their feet as they seek out more and different public school options for their children,” said Nina Rees, President & CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “It is wonderful to see the data prove what I hear from families of charter school students every day: Public charter schools are answering their call.”  
Rees continued, “There is a strong and growing demand for charter schools. In state after state, families are enrolling their children in these innovative, student-centered public schools. Charter schools are an important part of the public education ecosystem. Without them, overall public school enrollment declines would have been far worse, and many families would have suffered even more during this time of unprecedented challenge.”