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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Ohio's charter schools nabbed a record number of public school students during the pandemic, registering an 11.1% enrollment increase between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school year.

  • Public schools, meanwhile, experienced a nearly 4% decline, according to a new analysis from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Why it matters: The study's authors say parents who were dissatisfied with how public districts handled COVID shutdowns and learning from home "voted with their feet," which could have major financial implications. School funding is based on student enrollment, so if enough children leave a public district, its budget takes a big hit.

  • Columbus City Schools, for example, lost nearly $170 million in state funds in the 2020-21 school year as more than 20,000 students enrolled in charter schools, according to data provided to Axios.
  • School board president Jennifer Adair tells Axios that loss impacts how districts can serve the students who remain enrolled. Columbus' public schools serve a disproportionate number of students who are Black, living in poverty or have a disability.

By the numbers: The analysis says Ohio charters gained about 12,000 kids while public schools lost about 64,600.

Yes, but: Some local charter schools would take in more students if they could.

  • KIPP Columbus, part of a large charter chain featured in the study, has a waiting list of nearly 2,500 students, according to its website.
  • The school is working to expand its campus, but unlike public schools, charters can't ask voters for property taxes to fund construction, which can stunt growth.

The big picture: According to the Ohio Education Association, the state's largest public teachers union, it's not clear if the charter increases are a blip or a long-term trend, president Scott DiMauro tells Axios.

  • Ohio's figures are slightly higher than the national trend. Across the U.S., charter school enrollment increased by about 7% and public school enrollment dropped about 3%, the study says.

What they're saying: "The narrative some charter school advocates are pushing is that everyone is flocking to charter schools from public schools," DiMauro says.

  • "I think it would be, at best, premature to say there's truth to that."
Data: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; Map: Sara Wise/Axios

Go deeper

Oct 17, 2021 - Health

Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, in an "Axios on HBO" interview, said he's reluctant to withhold federal funding from states that won't enforce school mask mandates because he doesn't want to hurt students.

Why it matters: Cardona's comments suggest there are limits to how far the Biden administration will go in pressuring states to adopt universal masking — or vaccine mandates.

John Frank, author of Denver
21 hours ago - Axios Denver

Meet the candidates: Denver school board at-large seat

From left to right, Marla Benavides, Jane Shirley, Scott Esserman, Nicky Yollick, Vernon Jones Jr. Photos courtesy of campaigns

The state's largest school district is holding elections in four of nine districts, our education reporting partner Chalkbeat writes.

Let's meet the at-large candidates in the order they will appear on Denver residents' ballots.

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
22 hours ago - Axios Des Moines

Iowa schools grapple with staff shortages

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's the middle of the year, but staff shortages are still hampering Iowa schools' from performing their daily operations at 100%.

  • And this year's politicized debates about classrooms aren't helping with morale and retaining workers, said Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association.

Why it matters: Staff shortages, especially in classrooms, hurt student learning. Teachers and teacher aides don't have time for individualized lesson plans and they're managing larger class sizes.