In North Carolina, private school enrollment continues to grow, even as public schools have begun to regain their footing in some areas of the state.
The public schools saw a statewide drop of 63,000 students (4.4%) over the last two school years as families sought private, religious or homeschooling options. Even though public school enrollment has started to grow again, recent data suggests that students who left are choosing to remain in private schools.
Jason Dulworth, academic dean at Christ Covenant School in Winterville told local media that his school’s enrollment jumped when public schools went remote during the pandemic.
“We’ve had pretty substantial enrollment growth in the last couple of years despite graduating our largest class,” Dulworth said. “We’re having significant growth in our lower grades.”
The North Carolina State Department of Administration’s Division of Non-Public Education published a report in July, confirming the growth in private education.
The report documented 115,311 students enrolled in private or religious schools last school year – with 30.7% in independent private schools and 69.3% in religious education settings – an overall increase of 7% over the previous year.
The growth in private education coincides with a significant decline in public school numbers. Another July report, this one from education non-profit BEST NC, showed the state’s public schools saw a nearly 10% decline in enrollment since 2006.
Recent private school growth is attributed to public schools’ closure policies during the pandemic, along with increased interest in the state’s school choice vouchers through the Opportunity Scholarship program. Legislators are predicting a 28% increase in students served by the state scholarship program this year.
Families who left public education often see no reason to go back, says Dulworth, of Christ Covenant School: “[W]e have not seen a trend of leaving (once enrolling at CCS).”