North Carolina students leaving for private schools, homeschooling on the rise

(The Center Square) – Recent data from the state’s Division of Non-Public Education provides a snapshot of student enrollment in private and home schools, which remains strong amid public school enrollment declines.

A 2022 North Carolina Home School Statistical Summary published last month shows a statewide total of more than 100,000 schools serving 160,528 students in all counties during the 2021-22 school year.

Wake County was the top home-schooling county in the state last year with 9,002 schools serving 14,408 students, followed by 7,394 home schools for 11,492 students in Mecklenburg, 3,890 schools for 6,101 Guilford County students, and 3,620 Union County home schools for 5,941 students.

Other counties with large numbers of home-schooled students include 5,101 students in Buncombe County, 5,034 in Forsyth County, 4,862 in Johnston County, 4,626 in Cumberland County and 4,367 in Cabarrus County.

A total of 45 counties showed more than 1,000 home-school students, while the remainder, save Terrell County, have at least 100 home-school students. Terrell County showed 47 home school students.

Nearly 53% of home schools, or 53,374, identified as religious, while about 47%, or 47,530, identified as independent.

The Carolina Journal noted that an update to home-school figures last year to clear closed schools and removed students resulted in roughly 19,000 fewer students and 17,000 fewer schools for 2022 than the year prior, despite federal data showing an explosion in home school growth during the pandemic.

The news site also points to a July 2022 BEST NC report that shows traditional K-12 public schools in North Carolina have lost 5% of total enrollment over the last decade, while enrollment in home schools increased 115%, public charter school enrollment increased 202% and private school enrollment increased 12% over the same time frame.

A 2022 North Carolina Private School Statistics report from the state’s Division of Non-Public Education showed total private school enrollment in 2021-22 at 115,311, spread fairly evenly through grades K-12. Of the state’s 828 private schools, 297, or about 36% identified as independent, while 531, or about 64%, identified as religious.

Private school enrollment was the biggest in Wake County, where 20,873 students attended 93 private schools. Mecklenburg County’s 96 private schools enrolled the second-highest total number of students at 19,516.

Other counties with at least 3,000 students attending private schools in 2021-22 included Buncombe, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, New Hanover, and Union. Ten counties had zero private school students: Ashe, Camden, Caswell, Edgecombe, Graham, Jones, Martin, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington.

The strong enrollment figures for home and private schools come as Average Daily Membership figures for public schools have not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. Department of Public Instruction data shows ADM for the final month of the 2021-22 school year at 1,486,859, compared to an ADM of 1,519,962 during the last month of the 2018-19 school year, according to The Carolina Journal.

The BEST NC report summarizes the big picture.

“The percentage of North Carolina’s school-aged children attending traditional public schools has declined over the last 15 years, from 88% in 2005-06 to 79% in 2019-20,” according to the report. “Meanwhile the number of students attending public charter schools and home schools have increased substantially.”