As New York City’s public school enrollment dropped this year, charter schools have reported growth, including a 16% increase in the enrollment of students learning English, according to the New York City Charter School Center.
The 267 public charter schools in the city have reported a 7% increase in enrollment this year, or an increase of nearly 10,000 students. Asian student enrollment grew the most, with a 16% increase, followed by white student enrollment increasing 11%, Hispanic student enrollment growing 9%, and Black student enrollment increasing 5%.
Enrollment of students with disabilities grew 6%, as well as enrollment of “Economically Disadvantaged” students went up 6%.
“These numbers reflect the extraordinary work the City’s public charter schools have done under extraordinary circumstances to educate students and support families,” said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, in a press release. “More NYC families are able to choose the educational option that best fits their child, and now over 138,000 New York City students fill the halls and virtual classrooms of our rich and diverse public charter school community.”
The city said last week that enrollment in public schools this year dropped 4%, with about 43,000 students leaving the system. The biggest decreases have been in early education, with 3K enrollment down 8% and pre-K enrollment down 13%.
The drop in enrollment mirrors national trends, with the Department of Education citing the pandemic, declining birth rates, and overall long-term decreases in public school enrollment as factors.
The public school system is currently open for blended learning for 3K and elementary schools, as well as schools serving students with disabilities. All middle and high school students remain on full-time remote learning.
The NYC Charter School Center also acknowledged that enrollment has increased since before the pandemic as schools expand -- in 2015, enrollment was 94,334 students in charter schools, compared to 138,613 this year. An unaffiliated analyst at the city's Independent Budget Office noted a similar increase last year, when charter school enrollment increased by the same amount of 10,000 students. Enrollment at charters was up 6,700 students in 2018-19 and 8,600 students in 2017-18.
"I can't say just based on the numbers (that) it’s a story of fleeing the school system," said Sarita Subramanian, supervising analyst at the IBO.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the city’s charter schools have offered in-person learning. The largest charter school network in the city, Success Academy, has stayed fully remote this year.
A small number of the students who left the public school system enrolled in parochial schools which are open for in-person learning -- the Archdiocese of New York said Tuesday about a thousand students have left public schools this year for Catholic schools in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island.