K12 Records Resources

March 15, 2023

Why School Choice in K-12 Matters to Districts and Charter Schools


The rise of charter schools in recent decades has forever altered the landscape of the education marketplace, for both students and families, as well as for educators and administrators.


Interestingly, the pandemic, which arguably weakened the nation’s public education system, drove charter school enrollment during the same period. Charter school enrollment rose 7%, adding almost 240,000 students during the 2020-2021 school year. Enrollment in public schools fell sharply during the same period.


Charter school enrollment has since held steady, reaffirming that school choice is here to stay. At a time when district schools are losing students and thus funding, it is crucial to understand the ins and outs of school choice, what it means for students, for schools, and for the future of education and industry leaders.


What is School Choice?

School choice refers to the many ways students receive their K-12 education. It could mean public education dollars—that would traditionally go to area district schools—may instead follow the individual student to his or her school of choice, be it a charter school, a magnet school, an online or specialty program, or homeschool, to name the more common options.


For families, that means they can “shop” for the best school or program that fits their child’s individual needs. But what does that mean for schools? Here we will focus on the impact of school choice on district schools and charter schools.


How School Choice Affects District and Charter Schools in Similar Ways

The fact that families now have more options for their child’s education means increased competition among all the schools, which means increased accountability industrywide.


Better Performance

The increased competition among schools means increased accountability and higher performance as various schools—district, charter, magnet, or private—seek to attract students to the best of their abilities.

And just like in business, increased competition in education could drive better performance and inspire innovation as different school types seek to attract students and the public education dollars that follow them. Indeed, various studies and reports have found competition between public and private schools within a region was often enough to net positive results when it came to math and reading performance across all students no matter which school they attended.


Better Results

Better performance is inevitably linked to better results and higher satisfaction. The higher schools perform are, the more satisfied parents will be. To better perform, schools will do their best to offer quality teachers, enhance curriculums, streamline technologies, and provide standout programs, all of which will go to bolster the student and family experience.


In such aspects, school choice equalizes the education field as it forces all schools to compete for students and funding. However, there are key differences school administrators must take note of.


How School Choice Impacts District and Charter Schools in Different Ways

The biggest difference between district and charter schools is that while they are both funded by public dollars, charter schools have more freedom and flexibility in lesson planning and curriculum. District schools are more limited, as their agendas, goals, and curriculums are dictated by state and local governments.


Charter Schools

This means charter schools have the autonomy and greater ability to play to their strengths, which can be appealing to families with specific academic goals. As such, high-performing charter schools have especially big application pools and long wait lists, and lottery systems to handle the demand.


District Schools

For district schools, they have certain legal requirements to meet that differ by state. One school district in Florida was legally required by state statute to offer opportunities for different choices for families who want more options.


So school choice impacts various school systems differently, thus requiring a distinct response from its administrators.


Leadership’s Role in Supporting School Choice

The rise in popularity of school choice means school systems and administrators have to adapt to meet the change as well as the increase in demand. With more applications to process, it's vital for staff to have an organized, secure, and efficient system in place.  


Fortunately, Scribbles removes the barriers that prevent local families from engaging in your district specialty, magnet, and charter programs. With this Scribbles Software, leaders and administrators can offer families and staff a configurable, self-serve online school choice system that is accessible and simple, and addresses the unique needs of your programs, staff, and families.


Other industry leaders have already benefited from Scribbles’ many offerings. "Before ScribChoice came in, we were buried in the paperwork,” said Stephanie Archer, Director of Open Enrollment for Charter and District Schools at Brevard Public Schools. “Since the change, the ease of processing that ScribChoice has offered us has been tremendous.”


How you respond to school choice as a leader will impact your students and school now and in the future.


Final Thoughts

With more choices, families will have more questions, or the dilemma of too much choice—the same paralysis shoppers often face in the store aisle when confronted with 50 different shampoos. So it’s up to school administrators to make the path of school choice simple and accessible for families. Leaders must plan and prepare to meet the growing demand.



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