- School choice has changed the educational landscape in North Carolina
- Where offered, school choice options have grown and expanded.
- Since 2006-07, 72 percent of K-12 enrollment growth has gone to charter, private or home schools.
Recently there have been a lot of people touting the growth of school choice in North Carolina. Earlier this month, Terry Stoops my friend at the John Locke Foundation wrote an article entitled A Banner Year for School Choice in North Carolina, about how the Opportunity Scholarship and Disability Grant Programs have helped to propel school choice enrollment.
A week later, Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina issued a press release stating the enrollment in the Opportunity Scholarship program is at an all-time high (8,353). The release also went on to say “no other state has since 2011 implemented or expanded more parental school choice programs than North Carolina.”
So, just how much is school choice growing and making an impact in North Carolina? To determine how much school choice is growing let’s look at how K-12 enrollment has changed over the last ten years. Table I compares total student enrollment by year for the years 2006-07 and 2016-17.
|Change in North Carolina Student Enrollment by Type of School
2006-07 to 2016-17
|Year||Total Student Enrollment||Traditional Public Schools||Charter Schools||Private Schools||Home Schools|
|# Increase in ten years||173,833||48,835||60,058||5,800||59,140|
|% of Total Enrollment 2006-07||88%||2%||6%||4%|
|% of Total Enrollment 2016-17||82%||5%||6%||7%|
Data Source: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and Office of Non-Public Education, North Carolina Department of Administration
K-12 Enrollment figures are included for traditional public, charter, private and home schools. All figures are from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction or the Office of Non-Public Education.
According to the data, North Carolina has gained 173,833 new K-12 students in the last decade. Of those new students, 48,835 attend traditional public schools, 60,058 attend public charter schools, 5,800 attend private schools and 59,140 are enrolled in home schools.
Several findings stand out:
Choice. First and foremost, parents and students are choosing educational alternatives in record numbers. Of all the K-12 student growth in North Carolina over the past decade, 28 percent chose traditional public schools, 35 percent chose public charter schools, 3 percent chose private schools and 34 percent chose home schooling.
Charter Schools. Charter school enrollment has exploded, largely as a result of the legislature removing the charter school cap in 2011. Since then 70+ new charter schools were created to meet the pent-up demand. These changes have helped to propel a 206 percent in enrollment over the last ten years. However, enrollment in home schools and private schools has also increased significantly.
Public Schools. Over the past decade traditional public schools gained 48,000 new students, a relatively modest percentage increase of 3.4 percent. In 2016-17, 1,454,290 students attended traditional public schools in North Carolina.
Private Schools. After six straight years of declines, in 2014-15 private school enrollments have again begun to increase. In 2016-17, private schools in North Carolina enrolled more than 100,585 students, an increase of 5,800 students since 2006-07. No doubt the boost in enrollment was aided by the creation of the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) and the Disability Scholarship Program which offers scholarships of up to $8,000 per year to special needs students. The planned funding expansion of OSP to $44.8 million in 2018-19 and to $54.8 million in 2019-20 along with the creation of a small Personal Education Savings Account legislation earlier this year will mean that those numbers are likely to grow even larger.
Home Schools. The other significant development of the last decade is the expansion of home schooling. Over the past decade, the number of students enrolled in home schooling programs increased 86 percent. Some of the recent growth in home schooling has been fueled by concerns over safety, differences over values and opposition to Common Core Standards. It is also interesting to note that the number of home schoolers in North Carolina is larger than the number of private school students.
How has school choice impacted overall enrollment? If we stand back from these numbers we see over the last decade there has been a shift in the composition of K-12 enrollment. While the overall number of K-12 students is up almost 11 percent, where students enroll has also changed. In 2006-07 traditional public schools enrolled 88 percent of all K-12 students. In 2016-17, it’s 82 percent. While the percentage of students in private schools is holding steady at 6 percent, Charter school enrollment now comprises 5 percent of K-12 enrollment – up from 2 percent in 2006-07. Likewise, enrollment in home schooling now accounts for 7 percent of all K-12 enrollment – up from 4 percent ten years ago.
These numbers make clear that North Carolina parents want school choice and they like school choice. Over the past decade, 72 percent of student enrollment growth went to either a public charter school, private school or home school.
Parents want the best educational experience for their child. Oftentimes that may be in one of the local public schools. While that option may work for many, too many students are trapped in struggling public schools or in schools that don’t fit the child’s academic or developmental needs. School choice offers students an opportunity for a better education.
Let’s celebrate this growing freedom to choose and hope more and more North Carolina parents can provide their child with a quality education. Those reasons help to explain why school choice is growing in North Carolina and why we should continue working to keep North Carolina the school choice state.