SALT LAKE CITY — Enrollment in Utah public schools has exceeded 650,000 students, according to new figures released by the offices of the Utah State Board of Education.
The Oct. 1 head count —652,348 students — represents a slight increase over the previous year's enrollment of 644,476. Numbers of Utah students attending public schools, in both traditional schools and charter schools climbed by 7,872 over the previous year, a 1.22 percent increase.
When compared to Census figures that place the state's population just above 3 million people, that means 1 in 5 Utahns is a public school student. The head count released Monday does not include school-age children who attend private schools or are home-schooled.
Much of the increase was in public charter schools, with enrollment up more than 4,000 students from the previous years for an increase of 5.6 percent. Charter school enrollment accounts for more than 11 percent of Utah public school head count, according to the state board.
Royce Van Tassell, executive director of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, said charter school enrollment continues to grow "because parents continue to want something that better fits the needs of their kids."
Collectively, 75,567 students attend 113 public charter schools in Utah, which is nearly as many students who attend the state's largest traditional school district, Alpine School District.
The 5 percent increase in charter school head count comes on top of a 5.9 percent gain the previous year.
"Charter schools are obviously very popular and increasingly so," Van Tassell said.
"Many times a parent is so interested in finding that something unique that they'll go through the appropriately rigorous process of starting their own charter school. Utah policymakers have created a great environment for families to find that school or create that school that will meet the needs for their children and other children like their's," he said.
According to the Oct. 1 count, Alpine School District has 78,853 students, up from 77,343 a year ago.
Davis, Jordan and Tooele school districts also experienced growth, with Tooele numbers rising 12 percent from the previous year, according to the new head count.
Scott Rogers, superintendent of the Tooele School District, said the district's added 2,027 students "due to a new partnership with My Tech High for K-12 students in Blue Peak Online program."
Many of the students are from home-schooled families throughout the state.
"Otherwise, we are seeing the same 1 to 2 percent enrollment growth due to the new construction market in Stansbury Park, Tooele and Grantsville," Rogers said.
Meanwhile, head counts were slightly down in Salt Lake, Granite, Canyons and Murray school districts.
While enrollment fluctuated somewhat in most school districts, each of the state's smallest school districts — Daggett, Tintic, Piute, Wayne and Rich — experienced declines.
Numbers at the state's smallest school district, Daggett, fell by 20 students to 163, according to new figures.
Enrollment increased across all demographic groups except among Asian and American Indian students. Numbers of black students increased by 20 percent from the previous year to 10,911.
Hispanic or Latinos make up 17 percent of the state's public school population, the largest demographic group after whites, who comprise 75 percent of the state's public school students. That was unchanged from a year ago.
Low-income students comprise 35 percent of Utah’s student population. This represents 229,790 students. The percentage is unchanged from a year ago but numbers of low-income students increased by 6,320.
Other indicators of note:
• 11.5 percent of Utah students (75,383 pupils) are receiving special education services, up 2,212 student from a year ago.4 comments on this story
• 6.7 percent of Utah students are considered English language learners. This represents 43,784 students, up from 39,680 the previous year.
Enrollment growth is calculated through a statewide school census conducted every year on Oct. 1. Head count drives the state school funding formula, although districts receive additional funding for students who receive special education services and for students enrolled in career and technical education programs.
State funding appropriated through weighted pupil units accounts for about half of all school funding. It is allocated according to enrollment.