The second year that Jefferson Academy was open, there were more than 1000 students on the waiting list. As a parent who was extremely grateful for the great education my children were receiving, I felt guilty that more families couldn't experience what our family was experiencing. I mailed to the JA wait list and over 300 parents showed up for the first meeting for Lincoln Academy in 1996. In fact, knowing that wait list forms would be date and time stamped, parents began lining up several hours before the meeting.
Jefferson Academy had only been open a few years when Kindergarten class lists were filling with babies born before the end of February. Parents signed up their newborns, many times this was the fathers coming straight from the delivery room.
Why are parents so desperate and what are their chances of getting their children into a good charter school? It's estimated that over 25,000 students are waiting to get in to Colorado's charter schools. Due to the federal Charter School Grant Program many charter schools now use a lottery to determine enrollment. Every once in awhile we see a media story about families "winning the lottery" when their child is selected to enroll in a popular charter school.
Charter schools thrive in a competitive market. They develop a reputation in the community and parents spred the word amongst themselves. The essence of the charter school philosophy is that the charter school performs, which drives demand.
Several charter schools in our state were created because parents couldn't get their children into a particular charter school. That's why so many charter schools are very similar in educational program and design.
I'm sorry to say there isn't any magical way to "win the lottery" at a charter school. However, I do recommend parents put their children on the list at every charter school they're remotely interested in. That way, they'll at least have options to choose from.