by Anna Manning
News & Observer reports on the slowing enrollment rate in North Carolina public schools and growing enrollment rate in charter and home schools:
Durham Public Schools have shrunk by more than 1,000 students over the past four years, at the same time enrollment from Durham families in charter schools has gone up by more than 1,700 children.
Durham Public Schools have gone from having about 33,000 students in 2014 to about 32,000 students this school year, with around half of that drop in enrollment in the past year alone. In contrast, charter school enrollment by Durham students has more than doubled in the past decade and increased by around a third since 2014.
The situation in Durham mirrors statewide trends where traditional public school enrollment is dropping as charter school attendance grows. Locally, school districts such as Wake and Johnston counties are still growing but at slower rates because of students opting for education alternatives such as charter schools.
From our own Terry Stoops:
“The increase in enrollment in charter schools indicates people are happy with the way they operate.” said Terry Stoops, vice president of research for the John Locke Foundation, a think tank in Raleigh. “Parents are sending their children to them in record numbers.”
Critics of charter schools say privatization of education harms the ability of public schools to perform and that charter schools should be under district control and have more regulation.
Stoops of the Locke Foundation says he expects Democratic state lawmakers to propose several changes this year to regulate charter schools. But Stoops said it’s sad that school districts would want to find ways to weaken or eliminate charter schools instead of trying to compete with them.
“Charter schools were designed to foster competition with districts,” said Stoops, whose wife leads a new charter school scheduled to open this year in Wake County. “Instead of rising to that competition, districts would rather try to find ways to undermine charters with regulations.”