Oct 5, 2021 - News

Enrollment booms at Arkansas' charter schools

Arkansas' charter school enrollment was up 19.2% for the 2020–2021 school year, from the previous school year.

  • Public school enrollment, meanwhile, dropped 3%, according to a recent report 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 have taken their toll. And that hobbled system is shedding students to charter schools, private schools and homeschooling, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.

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

By the numbers: Enrollment in the state's 59 charter schools rose from just over 35,000 in the 2019–2020 school year to nearly 42,000 in the 2020–2021 school year.

  • Public school enrollment dropped by more than 13,000 to a total of 431,155 for the 2020–2021 school year, according to the report.

Zoom in: Haas Hall Academy, an open-enrollment charter school with campuses in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Springdale and Rogers, had only a 5% increase from 2019–2020 to 2020–2021, much lower than the state's.

  • However, this followed a 19.5% enrollment increase from the 2018-2019 school year to 2019–2020 school year, showing that overall charter school enrollment is trending up in NWA.

What to watch: School funding follows students. As students shift to alternative forms of education, public schools may lose resources and teachers.

  • 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.

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