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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

Booster rates increase as Omicron approaches

Source: Chicago Department of Public Health; Chart: Axios Visuals

As Chicagoans worry about the arrival of the Omicron variant, health officials say the best way to prepare — and to reduce current high levels of Delta — is to vaccinate and boost.

Why it matters: COVID-19 vaccination rates are still pretty low in certain communities and school groups where transmission is high.

  • And as Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) chief Allison Arwady explains, low vaccination rates actually drive new variants.

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.

An American hero: Tate Myre

A memorial for the victims of the shooting at Oxford High School in Oakland County, Mich. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Tate Myre, a 16-year-old football player at Michigan's Oxford High School, sacrificed his life Tuesday to save his classmates from the deadly shooting that has claimed at least three other lives.

The big picture: Students say Myre rushed the shooter — a fellow classmate — in an attempt to disarm him and give other students time to get away.