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Charter School Enrollment In the District Is Up Again

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 16, 2009

D.C. charter school enrollment continues its steady growth, increasing 9 percent over last year, according to an unaudited count for the 2009-10 academic year, officials announced this week.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board said the student population, in 60 schools across 90 campuses, is 27,953, just shy of the projected 28,066. The D.C. Public Schools report an enrollment of 45,772, meaning that 38 percent of public school students in the city attend charter schools.

"With this increase, charter schools continue to be an attractive option for parents in the District of Columbia," board Chairman Tom Nida said in a statement.

Charter schools, which are publicly financed but independently operated, have boomed in the District over the past decade. In 2003, enrollment stood at 13,700. They have offered themselves as an alternative to traditional public schools and are free of union requirements and the central office direction by Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who oversees the regular public schools.

Both charters and traditional public schools take their official enrollment counts in October. The numbers are then audited by a private accounting firm. Audits typically lead to some decreases in enrollment numbers.

Among Rhee's top priorities has been staunching the outflow of students from public schools. She forecast modest growth at this spring's budget deliberations but drew heat from the D.C. Council, which expressed doubt about the prediction after decades of falling enrollment.

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