Long Waiting Lists for Public Charter Schools in Georgia
More than 5,000 GA students would love to attend charters.
Atlanta, GA – June 25, 2012 Reflecting national trends, thousands of students in Georgia are currently on waiting lists to attend public charter schools across the state. According to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, last year more than 5,000 students in Georgia were on waiting lists to attend the state’s few start-up charter schools.
The problem — successful charter schools, with strong academic achievement and a reputation for rigor, tend to draw a flood of applicants, leading to lotteries and waiting lists.
Charters are public schools that do not hand pick their students. Admission is open to all students, which is why lotteries must be held when demand outstrips available seats. Lotteries are usually held in April or May, and names are literally drawn at random from a drum. Though waiting lists do fluctuate through the summer, most applicants won’t find out until the early days of school if an opening has developed because someone has moved or changed their mind.
At Savannah’s Oglethorpe Charter School, an award-winning middle school for grades 6-8, Principal Kevin Wall says his phone rings all summer with parents trying to enroll. Interest is so high that lottery status is posted right on the school’s homepage.
“We get a ton of calls,” Wall explains. “We get many military folks that will see our website and will call to try and get in. We have folks that continually call to see if any movement has taken place on the waiting list due to families moving or opting to go to another middle school. The general inquiries about enrollment and the waiting list are given the information that we publish on the web site.”
According to Education Week, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) estimates that 610,000 students are on waiting lists to attend public charter schools—an increase of about 200,000 from two years ago. The waiting-list number is a projection based on a nationwide survey with a 30 percent response rate, according to Anna Nicotera, NAPCS director of research and evaluation. Nearly two-thirds of charter schools responding to the survey, or 64 percent, reported having waiting lists, with an average size of 228 students. Twelve charter schools reported having wait lists of 2,000 students or more.
In states where charter school growth is robust, demand for seats at public charter schools has increased along with supply. Since the 2008-2009 school year, charter schools have added 650,000 seats: more than 300,000 for students at new schools and 350,000 seats at existing schools which have expanded. Public charter schools enroll about 2 million students nationwide.
KIPP Metro Atlanta schools currently have more than 1,200 students on their waiting lists across the six school region. KIPP STRIVE Academy Middle School Principal, Ed Chang notes, “We completed our enrollment period in late spring fully enrolled at each grade level, five through eight. Our waiting list grows each day because we continue to receive calls from families interested in attending our school.”
KIPP STRIVE Primary, KIPP’s first elementary school in Atlanta, will open this summer with 112 Kindergarten students and maintains a wait list as well. ”I think the waiting lists are an indication that parents want to see their children on the path to college beginning in kindergarten,” said Founding Principal, Mini’imah Shaheed.
Katherine Kelbaugh, Principal of The Museum School of Avondale Estates, a K-6 public charter school in Metro Atlanta, also reports receiving daily calls about enrollment. “It’s a testament to our school’s successful model and program. Calls typically come from prospective parents who are considering moving into our district to be eligible for the school. Others come from parents currently on the waiting list, checking on their status.”
“Most parents in Georgia are not waiting for a seat to come open for their child in a charter school. They are waiting for a charter school to open,” said Dr. Tony Roberts, CEO of The Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA). “The vast majority of Georgia’s 180 school districts do not offer any public charter school options to their parents and students. So, we really don’t have anywhere near an accurate count of the true waiting list for charter schools in Georgia.”
Parents and communities in Georgia will have the opportunity to offer students in the state more high quality public school options this fall when voters go to the polls. A November referendum will allow voters to determine if both the state and local boards of education should have the authority to authorize public charter schools.
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