Nevada charter schools continue their steady growth, make some diversity gains

By: - December 22, 2022 9:29 am

Coral Academy, which operates several charter schools across the Las Vegas Valley, opened its newest school in 2022 in the Cadence master planned community. (Photo courtesy of Coral Academy of Science Las Vegas)

Nevada charter schools continue to increase their share of K-12 public school students and enrollment declined within the state’s two urban districts, official enrollment data shows.

According to the Nevada Department of Education’s official enrollment count for the 2022-23 academic year, enrollment at charter schools overseen by the State Public Charter School Authority is now at 59,670 students – a 7.6% increase over the previous year.

Meanwhile, enrollment within the Washoe County School District dropped 2.3% – from 66,541 students to 64,990 students. Enrollment within the Clark County School District dropped 1.8% – from 320,245 students to 314,372 students.

Charter school enrollment has been steadily growing in recent years. The pandemic did result in several charters temporarily delaying opening due to economic uncertainty and the difficulties of navigating the shutdown, but the year-over-year growth rate for the subsequent year was still 4.1%.

Enrollment at individual charter schools varies – from just 34 students at an “early college” charter in Northern Nevada focused on dual enrollment, to 2,451 students at a K-12 charter in Southern Nevada. More than half of all charter school students are enrolled at charters administered by the same Florida-based company, Academica.

SPCSA schools now make up 12.1% of K-12 public school enrollment in Nevada. That makes them the third largest local education agency in the state.

For now.

The SPCSA is catching up to WCSD, which now enrolls 13.2% of students statewide.

In 2021, SPCSA made up 11.2% of enrollment, compared to WCSD’s 13.5%.

The NDOE holds the official enrollment count on or around Oct. 1 of each academic year. Enrollment data is used to allocate the state’s per-pupil dollars and impacts school budgets.

Their numbers reflect only students enrolled within public schools, meaning private school students and homeschooled children are not included. Charter schools are public schools because they receive state and federal funding, however they are privately managed, often by large out-of-state companies.

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Diversity within charter schools

SPCSA schools made progress toward the legislatively set goal of being representative of the statewide population, but some demographic categories still severely lag.

White and Asian students are overrepresented within SPCSA schools when compared to statewide enrollment.

  • 8% of charter school students identify as Asian, compared to 5.4% of students statewide
  • 29.8% of charter school students identify as white, compared to 28.2% of students statewide. The overrepresentation is more pronounced if you compare regional numbers. In Clark County, 20.6% of CCSD students identify as white, compared to 27.2% of charter students. In Washoe County, 41.4% of WCSD students identify as white, compared to 57.4% of charter students.

Hispanic/Latino students, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and English language learners remain underrepresented:

  • 38.6% of charter school students identify as Hispanic or Latino, compared to 44.2% of students statewide
  • 46.4% of charter school students are considered economically disadvantaged because they qualify for free or reduced price lunch; statewide 80.6% qualify
  • 9.8% of charter school students have an individualized education plan, meaning they require some level of accommodation; statewide 12.8% have an IEP
  • 9.2% of charter school students are considered English language learners, compared to 13.5% of students statewide

Black students are considered overrepresented within charter schools when compared to statewide enrollment, but underrepresented within Washoe and Clark counties, which is where the majority of charter schools are located.

In Clark, Black students make up 13% of charter school students but 16% of students within CCSD. In Washoe, they make up 1.6% of charter school students but 2.7% of students within WCSD.

Eight new charter schools opened in 2022 – Battle Born Academy, Coral Academy Cadence, Nevada State High School in North Las Vegas, pilotED Cactus Park, Pinecrest Virtual, Sage Collegiate, Strong Start Academy and Young Women’s Leadership Academy. They collectively enroll just over 2,000 students.

Because these new charter schools were approved using a ‘needs assessment’ mandated by the state legislature that requires schools to focus on historically underserved populations, their racial and ethnic demographics are more reflective of the population as a whole.

At the charter schools that opened this year:

  • 42.7% of students identify as Hispanic/Latino, compared to 44.2% statewide
  • 24.6% of students identify as white, compared to 28.2% statewide
  • 13.2% of students identify as Black, compared to 12.3% statewide
  • 9% of students identify as Asian, compared to 5.4% statewide

But those schools still lag behind in three key demographics:

  • 51.3% of students were considered economically disadvantaged, compared to 80.6% statewide
  • 8.4% of students have some level of disability, compared to 12.8% statewide
  • 11.4% of students are English language learners, compared to 13.5% statewide

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.

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