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Expand chart
Data: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; Map: Sara Wise/Axios

Charter schools picked off hundreds of thousands of public school students across the U.S. during the pandemic, according to a new analysis from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Why it matters: The pandemic has weakened America's public education system, as Zoom classes, teacher fatigue and student disengagement take their toll. And that hobbled system is shedding students to charter schools, private schools and homeschooling.

  • Those dynamics are exacerbating inequities in American education, as it's typically wealthier and white students who make the switch.

By the numbers: Charter school enrollment increased by 7.1% in the U.S. between the 2019-20 school year and the 2020-21 school year, per the analysis. That's a jump of about 240,000 students.

  • During the same period, non-charter public school enrollment dropped 3.3%, which is a whopping 1.5 million students.

In certain states, charter schools have picked up an even greater share of students:

  • Charter enrollment is up 65% in Alabama and 78% in Oklahoma.
  • Bigger states that have seen a significant jump include Texas (9%), New York (7%) and Ohio (11%).

What to watch: School funding follows students, says Jon Hale, a professor of education at the University of Illinois. So he says to expect public schools to lose resources and teachers as students continue to flock to other types of schools.

  • Public schools that waffle over mask policies or delay the return to in-person learning will frustrate even more parents, who'll pull their kids out and choose independent schools or homeschooling.
  • That's a serious problem for the millions of American students who continue to rely on the public education system.

Go deeper

John Frank, author of Denver
Oct 22, 2021 - Axios Denver

Meet the candidates: Denver school board

Top row, left to right: Karolina Villagrana, Gene Fashaw, Mike DeGuire. Bottom row, left to right: Michelle Quattlebaum, Jose Silva, Carrie Olson, Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán.

A majority of the Denver school board seats are at stake in the 2021 election — including three that represent neighborhood districts, Chalkbeat reports.

What's happening: The races cover a vast swath of the city — southwest's District 2, the southeast's District 3 and northeast's District 4.

ACLU sues Texas school district for punishing boys with long hair

An instructor leads a classroom discussion at the Xavier Academy in Houston, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of seven students in a Texas school district over what they call a discriminatory policy requiring boys, but not girls, to wear short hair.

Driving the news: School officials in the Magnolia Independent School District have punished boys for having long hair, including one 9-year-old student who was forced to serve an in-school suspension for a month and be removed from campus, according to the lawsuit.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.