Record Number of Students Attend Charters

New data demonstrates Arizona families are choosing charters in greater numbers

Public charter schools are increasingly the preferred choice among Arizona families, according to new 2016-17 student enrollment data.

A record 180,000 students currently attend 547 Arizona charter schools, an increase of nearly 10,000 students – or 5.8 percent – over the 2015-16 school year. By comparison, year-over-year enrollment in Arizona district schools grew by just 4,000 students – an uptick of less than half a percentage point.

“Public charter schools are fundamental to Arizona’s K-12 landscape,” said Eileen Sigmund, President and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association. “For the last two decades, charters have been changing lives for the better and become a preferred choice for families and students seeking a high-quality public education. The reason is clear: charter schools serve a diverse student population and generate better student outcomes across all demographics.”

  • For the last two years, Arizona charter students outperformed their peers across the state on the AzMERIT assessment in every grade level and subject area;
  • Arizona charter students outperformed nearly every other state on the Nation’s Report Card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in English, Math and Science.

This is a time of both unprecedented academic achievement and budgetary pressure for Arizona charter schools. Despite their growing popularity and performance, continued state budget cuts undermine charter operations and threaten some of the same schools that are among Arizona’s top performers.

“Although more families have been choosing charter schools in Arizona, funding for charter school students has gone down significantly over the past five years – deeply impacting many of the highest-performing schools in our state,” added Sigmund. “Arizona leaders should consider choice and performance when funding our schools. With limited State resources, it is more critical than ever that Arizona fund what works.”

In other related charter news, the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools approved two new charter applications: Victory Collegiate Academy and Synergy Public School. The schools, which both plan to serve low-income neighborhoods in West Phoenix, are founded by leaders with a proven track record of improved student achievement.

About the new schools
  • Synergy Public School is an Arizona non-profit creating a school system highly-regarded for its academic excellence and contributions to the students and communities in which it operates. Co-founders Lori Weiss and Melissa McKinsey have nearly 40 years of combined educational experience. Weiss is a RODEL Exemplary principal with extensive Arizona education honors; McKinsey has led A-rated schools serving low-income students. Synergy plans to open in August 2017, eventually serving grades K-5.
  • Victory Collegiate Academy is an Arizona non-profit changing the lives of students by giving them a “Healthy Body – Healthy Mind, Whole Child” education that focuses on students’ academic, nutritional, physical, mental, social and emotional health. Founder Nick Schuerman has both district and charter administrative experience, and is committed to helping students build the social, emotional, economic and academic skills they need to function in today’s society. The school plans to open in July 2017, eventually serving grades K-8.