New enrollment analysis details charter school sector’s growth

New K-12 enrollment figures show more students are attending charter schools.

Where New York City students go to school saw steady change under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to enrollment data released on Tuesday.

The Independent Budget Office compared school-aged between 2003 and 2013 for all types of schools serving the city’s roughly 1.3 million school-aged population. The agency’s findings underscore the extent to which education policy under Bloomberg reshaped student enrollment during his three terms in office.

The 10-year period reflects some dramatic shifts. Nearly 60,000 students attended a charter school last year—a virtual explosion from the just 2,400 students enrolled in charter schools in 2003.

This year, charter schools enrolled close to 70,000 students, and the sector will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years as existing schools add on new grades each year. Twenty-seven new charter schools are set to open next year.

Bloomberg made it easier for charter schools to open and expand by giving them free space inside of the district school buildings. New state laws enacted earlier this year also ensure that additional charter schools could continue to open and receive access to building facilities under Mayor Bill de Blasio, who pledged to curtail charter school growth as a mayoral candidate.

Meanwhile, Catholic schools lost 47,000 students over the 10 years, a 35 percent decrease. That reflects the growing number of families who opted for charter schools or other new public school options.The trend received renewed attention with the news that Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School in Windsor Terrace would abruptly shutter its doors at the end of the school year due to financial straits.  

Jewish schools have now supplanted Catholic schools as the predominant private schools in New York City. Since 2003, Jewish schools have added 20,000 students, and last year enrolled close to 95,000 students.

While traditional public school enrollment dipped slightly over the 10-year period, the system still educates a vast majority of the city’s K-12 population. Last year, 980,000 students attended a district school, nearly 65,000 fewer than a decade earlier.

Overall, the city’s school-aged population fell by about 2 percent, or 30,000 students.

The IBO also looked at the racial and ethnic makeup of the city’s students based on where they go to school. Over 93 percent of charter schools students are black or Hispanic, compared with 68 percent in traditional district schools and 26 percent in the city’s non-public schools.

A screenshot of IBO’s report on the racial and ethic makeup of different school types in New York City.

The IBO’s findings were published Tuesday morning on its blog.