50K Students on Waitlists for CA Charter Schools

June 27, 2013

  • Print
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has released the results of a new survey estimating that charter public school waitlists, with an unduplicated count across wait lists estimated at 520,000.

The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) worked with NAPCS on this report, providing state-level data breaking down waitlists by region.

This past school year, CCSA estimates that there were 49,705 students across the state of California on waitlists for charter schools (This number accounts for potential duplication across schools). In other words, nearly one tenth of unmet nationwide demand is here in California.

The demand for seats at charter schools far exceeds the seats available in several regions, including Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and several Bay Area counties. We also found high demand relative to supply for charter schools in Sonoma county.

Major School Districts

  • Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD): 15,218
  • Oakland Unified: 2,261
  • San Diego Unified (SDUSD): 1,008


  • Los Angeles: 18,466
  • San Diego: 6,154
  • Alameda: 3,098
  • Santa Clara: 2,538
  • Sonoma: 1,967
  • Contra Costa: 1,243

"Charter schools continue to grow in California in response to demand from parents for more high-quality options," said Jed Wallace, President and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association. "Any charter school leader will tell you that they don't want to turn away a single student, much less tell dozens of families but that there just isn't enough space at the school. That's why we are working so hard to make sure that high-quality schools are able to expand and replicate and that they have the facilities and funding they need to serve students."

Each school year, families who are faced with traditional public schools unable to meet their needs seek better options for their children by applying to charter public schools. Particularly in urban communities with limited high-quality options, families will often apply to multiple public charters hoping to get a space for their child.

NAPCS's survey this year also includes an estimated calculation of the number of individual students on waitlists. This estimate shows that at a minimum, more than 520,000 total individual students - many of whom are on multiple charter school waitlists in the hopes of increasing the chance of getting into at least one - are on waitlists across the country. CCSA's count of 49,750 parallels this figure.

Every fall, CCSA conducts a data survey of California charter schools in which number of applicants they had versus available seats and whether they held a lottery. Using the numbers provided by schools and factoring in that families often apply to more than one school, CCSA used conservative estimates to determine waitlists across the state. Read more about the data and methodology.