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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

University of Texas ranks among top colleges for business founders

Students walk past the University of Texas' iconic tower. Photo: AP Photo/Eric Gay

Financial database PitchBook released its annual list of the top 50 colleges for business founders last week, and the University of Texas sits in spot 9.

Why it matters: Good founder schools attract would-be entrepreneurs who create new companies that add to Austin's startup community.

22 mins ago - World

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.

Stuck jet stream brings blowtorch December in Lower 48, frigid Alaska

Short-term climate outlook for Dec. 13-19, 2021, from the Climate Prediction Center at NOAA. (NOAA/CPC)

The Lower 48 states have seen record-shattering warmth so far this December, with temperatures running as high as 35°F above average for this time of year. The warmth has been so pronounced that during the weekend, brush fires broke out in a snowless, unusually mild Denver metro area.

The big picture: The jet stream, which is a river of air that rides at about 30,000 feet along the temperature contrast between air masses, steering storms as it goes, has been stuck in a position well north of the continental U.S., keeping storms and cold weather at bay.