Alaska’s traditional public schools down 2%, charters up nearly 8%

(The Center Square) – Alaska traditional public schools experienced a drop in enrollment during the pandemic while public charter school enrollment grew, a new report shows.

In a trend mirrored across the nation, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says 1.5 million students left the traditional public school system during the COVID-19 pandemic for other education options. In most cases, the students who left didn’t return to the public school system, the report said.

In Alaska, 3,308 less students enrolled in traditional public schools for the 2020-21 school year compared to the previous year. That trend appeared to hold for the most part during the 2021-22 year when public school enrollment grew by just 619. That means 2,689 students who left Alaska’s public school system didn’t return.

Overall, the state’s traditional public school enrollment dropped by 2.14%. At the same time, enrollment in Alaska charter schools grew by 7.83%, the report said.

“No matter how you examine the data, families from all walks of life are making different choices for their children following the pandemic and many of them are choosing charter schools,” the authors wrote.

Charter schools across the country gained 240,000 students during the same period that traditional public schools lost 1.5 million students, the report said. Increases were simultaneously observed in private schooling and homeschooling.

One side effect of the pandemic appears to be a surge of parent interest and involvement in their children’s education. A national survey of more than 5,000 parents by The Harris Poll earlier this year found 78% of parents said they became more involved in their children’s education because of what they saw from the education system during the pandemic.

Approximately 20% of parents said they switched the type of school their child attended, and of those parents, 89% said their child experienced a positive change as a result of the switch, according to the survey.

“The point is not simply that parents prefer one type of public school over another. The bigger takeaway is that we are experiencing a parent revolution, spurred by the pandemic, and likely here to stay. In communities across America, families are clamoring for something other than the school their children are zoned to attend,” the authors said in the report.