Five years ago, Kevin Welner and Gary Miron explained why you should not believe claims about charter “wait lists.”

At the same time that they released this caution (2014), the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools [sic] put out a press release claiming that more than one million students were wait-listed to get into charter schools.

Five years later, the New York Times cited this press release by NAPCS to substantiate a statement that “hundreds of thousands” of students were on charter wait lists. On the other hand, Los Angeles school board member Scott Schmerelson posted on his Facebook page that more than 80% of the charter schools in LA had vacancies.

Welner and Miron gave nine reasons not to believe unverified claims about hundreds of thousands of students waiting to get into charter schools.

They posted this caution after the NAPCS [sic] claimed in 2013 that precisely 902,007 students were on wait lists for charter schools.

Here are nine reasons to be skeptical of the numbers offered by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Reason #1: Students Apply to Multiple Charter Schools

The NAPCS estimate is complicated by the fact (acknowledged by NAPCS in its 2013 announcement) that “families often apply to multiple charter schools….” Because of this practice, NAPCS downsizes its own topline number by over 400,000 students. That is, instead of the 920,007 waitlist students given as the 2013 topline number, NAPCS later adds: “at a minimum, more than 520,000 total individual students – many of whom are on multiple charter school waitlists … are on waitlists across the country.” In practice, many families may apply to one or more charter schools along with district-run schools or programs. Such students receive offers at a variety of schools (multiple charter and/or district options) but may choose a district school option. In short, a given charter school application may not reflect a student’s first choice.

Reason #2: The Waitlist Numbers Cannot Be Confirmed

Even the NAPCS 520,000 estimate is problematic. For most jurisdictions,2 it is derived from unaudited and unauditable numbers reported to NAPCS through a survey it administers annually. The survey apparently asks for the number of applications received, as well as the number of available seats. The waiting list numbers are then calculated as applications minus seats.

There is no state or federal indicator that is called “waitlist.” Instead, this is a statistic developed by NAPCS and others who hope to advance the argument that, “With such demand, it is up to our elected officials to remove the facilities and funding barriers that exist to ensure that every child has the option to attend a high-quality public charter school” (Nina Rees, NAPCS president and CEO).3

Open the link to read the other seven reasons.