Charter schools are the "fastest-growing sector of public education" in the country. And the Orange County school district ties for 10th nationally for "highest growth" in charter school enrollment the past two years, a new study shows.
The study by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says charter school enrollment nationally jumped 80 percent in the past five years, proving that parents like "their track record of success and ability to meet the unique needs of students."
In Florida, there are about 580 charter schools enrolling more than 200,000 students, according to the Florida Department of Education.
Charter enrollment in Orange increased 19 percent since the 2011-12 school year, the report says. Palm Beach County schools along with Denver and Oakland saw similar increases. Duval and Hillsborough county school districts saw even bigger enrollment jumps (ranking 3rd and 5th nationall), while the Hall County school district in Georgia was the top performer, with a 58 percent increase, according to the report.
Charter schools are public schools paid for by taxpayer money but run by private groups.
Some have been success stories -- such as the A-rated Lake Eola Charter School in Orlando. But some have closed amid financial and academic problems.
In Florida, charter schools enjoy strong support from the state's top political and education leaders. But charters, particularly those run by private management companies, are also viewed as controversial by some educators and advocates, who fear they siphon public money into private firms.
No one doubts their enrollment is growing, and the report credits that to charter schools being leaders in "innovation and education reform."
Five percent of Orange County's public school students attend a charter school, the report says based on last school's year's enrollment. The charter "market share" is even higher in both Broward and Miami-Dade school districts, the report notes, with 13 percent enrolled in charters.