As parents try to balance the needs of a growing number of children with the challenges of the 21st century, some parents are turning to charter schools.
In this first in a series of CNNMoney special “The Biggest Mistakes You Made,” CNNMoney senior education correspondent Michelle Nieves and CNNMoney contributor Chris Woodfield discuss how the world of charter schools is changing.
The series, “The biggest mistakes you made with your kids,” airs Monday on CNN.
Here are some common misconceptions about charter schools and how to get them to work for you: * Charter schools are more expensive than traditional public schools.
* Charter school students are typically poor and often black.
* Most charter schools are run by charter operators or nonprofits.
The charter school sector is booming.
Charter school enrollment in the United States has doubled in the past five years, to nearly 5 million students.
The majority of these students attend charter schools, but the industry is also growing at a faster rate than traditional schools.
Charter schools account for a significant share of the nation’s public school system.
The number of charter students rose from 1.7 percent of the total public school student population in 2003 to 1.8 percent in 2012.
Charter enrollment in Louisiana grew by nearly 12 percent during the same period, and the industry grew even faster in other states.
Charter students also are often poorer than the general public, with some families struggling to afford a child’s education.
Charter Schools Can Save Schools The American Federation of Teachers, the nation ‘s largest teachers union, says charter schools “can save” public education by providing better instruction and a better learning environment.
They also can provide more options for students, including private schools.
The group has endorsed the creation of a “charter school voucher” program to help low-income families pay for public schools, and it’s encouraging parents to take a look at charter schools as a possible way to help pay for private schools in their communities.
Charter School Teachers Say Public Schools Are ‘A Big Deal’ Schools are often criticized for providing poor educational opportunities, but there are a number of reasons why schools in some cities and states offer some of the best public education in the country.
Here’s a look: * Many charter schools offer early learning programs for children, as well as special education classes.
These programs are not required by state law, and many schools offer them at no cost.
The state Department of Education estimates that nearly 1 in 6 students in Louisiana are enrolled in an early learning program, with over half of these enrollments coming from charter schools (although that figure includes those who attend traditional public school).
The federal government estimates that the number of students who attend an early childhood program has grown from just over 600,000 in 2011 to more than 2 million in 2012, and more than 3 million in 2013.
The average attendance of students enrolled in a school’s early learning is higher than in a typical public school.
* Many students attend public schools as part of a charter school’s mission, with most students attending one school or another for their whole lives.
Charter children often come from poor families, often living with their parents or other relatives.
Charter programs also can offer more options.
Many parents of charter children want to help their children better learn in a more structured setting.
The most popular charter school option for middle-class families is the public school option.
The National Charter Schools Association estimates that more than 70 percent of students in charter schools enroll in a charter or partnership school, where they spend two-thirds of their time in a classroom.
This is often a special education school or charter school.
Many charter programs also have special education services for kids with disabilities.
Charter and traditional public education are often intertwined, so parents of students attending both are encouraged to work together on programs and strategies to better meet their child’s needs.
Charter Education Programs Can Save Private Schools Charter schools also offer better education for students with disabilities, particularly those who are disabled themselves.
In fact, in 2012 the National Association of the Deaf reported that charters provide more than 60 percent of disabled students in the U.S. with a quality education, including more than two-fifths with disabilities who attend charters.
These students are also the most likely to succeed in school and to graduate from high school, according to the Association.
Charter is not just a business opportunity for parents.
Many charters are also home to a diverse array of students.
For example, in addition to students with special needs, students from minority groups, students with mental health issues, and students with physical disabilities are often welcome.
Some charter schools even provide a full day of academic instruction, while others only provide one-half or one-third of the time.
Some of the most innovative charter schools include a school called the Academy, in Washington, D.C., and a charter called the New School, in Seattle.
Academy, which offers full-day classes, has received more than $2 million from the charter industry.
New School has received nearly