School choice supporters say 2012 was banner year

More charter schools opened in 2012 than in any previous year — a milestone for proponents of reform, who celebrated their successes this week during National School Choice Week.

Nearly 400 charter schools opened last year, bringing the nationwide total to more than 6,000 schools serving 2.3 million students. This was the largest year-to-year increase in charter school openings in the reform movement’s 20-year history.

While the charter school movement has been growing for years, 2012 may be remembered as the year when it became mainstream — earning endorsements from celebrities, a major motion picture, and serious bipartisan support.

“The growth of the public charter sector continues because parents are demanding quality options for their children,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in a statement.

But school choice still faces uphill battles in several states where its chief opponents — teachers unions — have successfully introduced legal hurdles. In Louisiana, the teachers union recently prevailed in court over Gov. Bobby Jindal’s ambitious education reforms, jeopardizing their existence. (RELATED: Key Jindal initiative struck down)

The school choice movement has momentum on its side, despite numerous challenges, said Joy Pullman, managing editor of School Reform News.

“If I think of it in sports terms, school choice proponents have the ball for our energy and growth in popular and political support from both major political parties,” she wrote in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Even so, the movement has a long way to go. Charter schools have only been introduced in a handful of states, and 95 percent of students are still enrolled in public schools.

“We’re on the other team’s 10-yard line because most kids still attend assigned traditional schools,” wrote Pullman.

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