Christian schools saw record leaps in enrollment in 2021, and early numbers for the 2022-23 school year show the trend continuing.
As reported by The Lion last November the effects of the COVID pandemic, combined with parent outrage at radical public school curricula on race and sex, translated into enrollment increases at Christian schools nationwide.
Last week the nonpartisan research organization Education Next released a report estimating a massive 2 million students have left public schools since 2020.
Between 2020 and 2022, Education Next says, the percentage of parents choosing an alternative to the traditional public school increased, and “parents expressed higher levels of satisfaction with their child’s school if their student was attending a private or charter school rather than a district school.”
Delana Reynolds, admissions officer for Springfield, Missouri-based New Covenant Academy, says the start to the 2022-23 school year is a continuation of the growth New Covenant has experienced over the past several years.
“This school year we added 158 new students, which represents 7% growth,” Reynolds told The Lion. “It would have been higher if we hadn’t closed several grades due to full enrollment.”
New families enroll at the school seeking a faith-based experience, she says.
“While there have always been parents with a heart and strong conviction for Christian education, this seems to be increasing as parents are becoming more aware of challenges in the public schools,” Reynolds notes. “Parents want more for their children. They want their faith protected and nurtured. They want high expectations for behavior and academics. They want to see their children grow in every way, physically, academically and spiritually.”
College Heights Christian School in Joplin, Missouri has seen similar growth. The K-12 school has added 93 students since August 2020 – a 16% increase over two years.
These schools’ data echo a trend nationwide, where parents and students are seeking educational experiences that match their values.
The Texas Education Agency reported public school enrollment numbers decreased 2.2% last year, reflecting an estimated 122,000 students leaving public education.
Those public school system losses were Christian schools’ gains. In an article last fall, Reporting Texas wrote of a “surge” in enrollment for central Texas’ Christian schools: a 51% increase at Faith Academy in Marble Falls, and a 20% jump at Round Rock Christian Academy in Round Rock.
With the 2022-23 academic year now in session, The Christian Academy in Sikeston, Missouri is seeing the same increases as other faith-based schools, and finds this year’s growth – a whopping 25% upswing – came at just the right time: A year ago, the school thought it might be closing its doors.
In fact, the board had made the decision to close, says Mike Jensen, TCA administrator, who told The Lion the school’s low tuition was unable to keep pace with rising expenses. But parents and community members requested 30 days to execute a fundraising campaign to keep the school open, and were “successful way beyond our expectations,” he said. TCA is back this fall with more students and a balanced budget.
“In this region, our private Christian school community is growing, active, thriving,” said Jensen. “We have had a very blessed bump in enrollment. I think the No. 1 reason parents are choosing us is because they want their children educated in an environment that puts a premium on Christian values and principles.”
The Christian school boom is coast to coast and nondenominational.
“For the first time in 20 years, enrollment in U.S. Catholic elementary and secondary schools increased in 2021-22, rising by 3.8 percent according to data from the National Catholic Educational Association,” writes America Magazine.
Earlier this week, Minot, North Dakota’s Bishop Ryan Catholic School President Fr. Jadyn Nelson appeared on Fox and Friends First to address the reasons more parents are seeking faith-based education. His school has seen a 6% enrollment jump this year.
“I think the biggest thing is that, when people look at what they want for their children in terms of an educational environment, they think of providing such an environment that corresponds to their own values,” Nelson said.