Total charter school enrollment in North Carolina rose approximately 5% this school year, while total public school enrollment shrank by 0.4%.
This latest data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, reported by Charlotte’s local NPR affiliate WFAE, follows the continuing trend of skyrocketing enrollment in alternative schools since the pandemic.
“Now, charter and lab schools are up from the pre-pandemic 2019 tally by 24%, or almost 29,000 students,” the report states. “Total district enrollment is down 3% over the same period. Home-schooling and private-school enrollment have also grown in recent years, although data for the current school year is not available.”
The data seem to leave no doubt the pandemic exposed issues in public schools, leading parents to choose alternatives for their children.
A report from The American Enterprise Institute in December found “enrollment loss” at over 8,200 public school districts in the U.S. as a result of “COVID-related policies.” Schools and districts that experienced the longest periods of remote learning were found to be the hardest hit.
However, the mass exodus from public schools actually began well before the pandemic.
As reported by The Lion in August, public school enrollment in North Carolina is down 10% over the 15-year period from 2008 to 2023. As a result, nearly one-quarter of all students in the state are currently attending something other than a traditional public school.
This massive shift away from public schools isn’t just limited to Noth Carolina. States across the nation are also feeling the effects of a movement for parents’ rights and educational freedom. And, with more states adopting school choice legislation, the trend is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future.
Last week, the Washington Post concluded homeschooling is “America’s fastest growing form of education.”
“In states with comparable enrollment figures, the number of home-schooled students increased 51 percent over the past six school years, far outpacing the 7 percent growth in private school enrollment,” the Post reported. “Public school enrollment dropped 4 percent in those states over the same period, a decline partly attributable to home schooling.
“The growth demonstrates home schooling’s arrival as a mainstay of the American educational system, with its impact — on society, on public schools and, above all, on hundreds of thousands of children now learning outside a conventional academic setting — only beginning to be felt.”
In April, another report projected the decline in public school enrollment in Massachusetts will continue through at least 2030, citing data from the Department of Education.