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August 2, 2021 12:11 pm
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes back school choice expert Dr. Terry Stoops to discuss the statistics on school choice during the 2020-2021 school year. Dr. Stoops outlines how and why North Carolina saw a drastic surge in school choice enrollment over the past school year, particularly in homeschools.
Family policy matters and engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Ralston, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that you will flow better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters.
Tracy David Griggs, thanks for joining us this week for family policy matters is wrapping up many North Carolina students are returning to the classroom for the time in over a year, the state recently released last year's enrollment numbers for North Carolina public private and home schools and perhaps not surprisingly, a record-setting number of families finished the 2020 21 school year in a home, school or school choice when joining us today to discuss what this shift and North Carolina school landscape might mean going forward is Dr. Terry stoops, director of the Center for effective education at the John Locke foundation. He's also cofounder of Carolina charter Academy and answer North Carolina and serves on the North Carolina charter school advisory Board, Dr. Terry stoops. Welcome back to family policy matters you for having me. It's possible to come to any conclusions over the migration and school enrollment that happened last year during the pandemic and if so, what are those takeaways the biggest take away is that parents were dissatisfied with the way districts conducted the school year and they could have been dissatisfied for any number of reasons on why learning is certainly one of the sticking points with some parents who felt that it wasn't the ideal educational environment for their child. There were parents that had concerns about the use of masks. There were other parents who were concerned about the possible spread of coronavirus in large groups such as classrooms and school buildings and so parents went and they sought out alternatives to districts in unprecedented numbers, and I think there was a real desire among parents to see if there were alternatives that were better fit for their children during an extraordinary school year and I think one of the takeaways that I came to looking at what happened during the 2020 2021 school year is that it was a year of discovery for a lot of parents parents that may never have considered a school of choice for their child decide to take the lead and I think that although we have some terrible things occurred during the pandemic school year with illnesses and the one of the bright spots is that parents who probably never thought that they would ever look for a school of choice because they lived in a neighborhood with a good school decided to look for a private school decided to homeschool or even seek out enrollment in a charter school when and I think the numbers really bear that out. The numbers do you have this in front of you give us an example of what we saw last year.
Sure well so I'll start with the the most modest increase in I was in the number of private school enrollment in the private school enrollment only increased by 3.3%, which was by all accounts, very modest, but I will remind folks to consider that there was a time where we expected private school enrollment to decrease because there was an expectation of a severe recession. Following the shutdown you consider that there were 22 million Americans are roughly 13.5% of the labor force filed initial claims for unemployment benefits in March and April 2020 and so the thought was that many of these families could no longer afford to send their child to a private school because they would no longer have the income necessary to pay for the tuition and so a lot of economists were thinking that school numbers were going to decrease because of a recession from a government mandated shutdown of essentially private industries that were deemed dangerous and so we really worried about that that.
Instead what happened was that there was a quick turnaround and not only were parents going back to private schools, but many parents that were dissatisfied with the district school decided to enroll their child in a private school, and in many cases there were waitlist for private school enrollment, so, so that was the most modest of the increases we saw between and eight and 9% increase in charter school enrollment and we don't have the final numbers yet, so we can't say definitively what the increase in charter enrollment was charter school sector continues to see substantial growth both in the number of charter schools and were at around 200 charter schools in the state, but in the number of charter school students that are enrolled.
Last school year.
We've seen between 125,220 8000 charter school students, and that's expected to increase in the upcoming school year. Probably in the matter of between seven and 10,000 students. So we see impressive increases in charter school students and that will continue. The most amazing increase in the one that caught me most off guard was the increase in homeschool enrollment. Now I was predicting something along the lines of a 4 to 8% increase in homeschool enrollment and I was so incredibly wrong and and this is an instance where I'm really happy to be wrong because homeschool enrollment increased by nearly 21% during the last school year and so that blue life by prediction of 48% increase out of the water in North Carolina. We had an estimated 179,900 students in home schools and just put that in perspective, wake County is our largest school district and if we pulled all the homeschool students together and made them a school district they would be the largest school district by far in North Carolina is the largest choice segments of students of any of our schools of choice here in North Carolina and it I believe has the largest increase of any homeschool population, certainly in the southeast, and I believe in the nation, and one thing to remember about Norton North Carolina to homeschool population, the people might not know is a proportion of the total student population, others as a percentage of total student population. North Carolina has the largest share of homeschoolers of any state in the nation. So we are one of the leaders in school choice in the nation and we are by far the leader in homeschooling of any state in the nation, and I think that something really to be proud of. And although some of us think this is great news and love to hear this. There are those interestingly who aren't so happy to see a lot of people going into schools of choice. So what are you saying as far as policymakers and how they are responding to this news of the dramatic shift last year well on the Republican side were seeing some budget provisions in legislation that would expand our private school choice programs and we have had a need for many years justifying two or three private school choice programs in North Carolina.
We have two programs that are designed for special needs children and one that's designed for low income children and the opportunity scholarship, which is for low income children has had a voucher amount of $4200 since its inception, and this is been the case for the last six or seven years that it's been said that the amount and I think legislators recognize that there's a need to increase that amount. There is a plan in advance by legislators that would index the amount of the opportunity scholarship based on the plate per pupil expenditure for school districts. In other words, if the school districts receive a certain amount of money than the opportunity scholarship would be set as a percentage of that amount. That means that it would always increases as long as the district school spending increases, which I think it is very good policy and currently we have a voucher program and an education savings account program for special needs children education savings account program is sort of like a voucher except the parents are able to direct funding to not only private school tuition but also other things that a child needs to be successful.
Whether it be physical therapy, speech therapy, educational equipments that would help them be successful, allows them to tailor their education dollars to the specific needs of their child. There's a proposal before the general assembly that would combine voucher and the education savings account into one program and make some changes that would make it a little more user-friendly for families to be able to use education savings account dollars to tailor it to the needs of their children so so that proposals before the legislature on the other hand, the response by many Democrats who don't necessarily support schools of choice. Let me just say that there are some courageous Democrats that are willing to stand up to their party and say that educational options are absolutely essential for all students, but the majority of Democrats are asking the Republican leadership in the general assembly to provide much more funding toward district schools and this is the. The constant refrain that we hear so often from the Democratic Party, complaining that the reason why so many parents are seeking out schools of choices because our district schools are underfunded now that is a an idea that that we hear a lot of but there's really little evidence to back it up. Given that homeschools a lot of private schools and charter schools, but much less than the district does. And yet parents seek those out in even greater numbers, but the idea that we just need more money, more funding, more programs, more support is not really standing up to the evidence that we have that schools that are funded at higher levels than other schools thoroughly perform better and that those schools are necessarily providing a better education to children with good though schools are funded at lower levels. So we do really have a conflict of visions between the Republicans and Democrats in the Gen. assembly and the irony of all this is is that we have an unprecedented budget surplus in the state and yet the federal government is creating even greater deficits to be able to throw more money at school districts through coronavirus relief funding so districts are already flush with cash that they can't spend fast enough from the federal deficit spending. North Carolina doesn't want to make that mistake and they don't want to throw their surplus spending at districts when they haven't even spent the deficit money that was sent to them from the federal government. Parents are listening may not know that we have some great resources for them if they are wanting to investigate some of these schools of choice options. Could you just discuss that a little bit and tell people where they can follow your work at the John Locke foundation absolutely my work at the John Locke foundation can be found most readily online at John Locke.Ward certainly feel free to call me here at the office anytime at 919-828-3876 I be happy to speak with parents who are interested in school choice and North Carolina has some wonderful organizations that also work to advance school choice in the state. Parents for educational freedom in North Carolina is a strong supporter of our private school options.
We have two charter school organizations and North Carolina coalition for charter schools and the North Carolina Association for public charter schools. These are both organizations that work to promote charter schools in North Carolina and then North Carolinians for home education is one among a handful of home education and homeschooling groups that provide support for families who want to homeschool. Certainly they can direct families were interested in homeschooling to the many local groups that exist to support homeschoolers in each county so we are always ready and available and willing to ensure that North Carolina's parents have as many options available to be able to provide the education best meets the needs of their children will thank you very much, Dr. Terry stoops, director of the Center for effective education at the John Locke foundation. Thanks so much for being with us today on family policy matters. You been listening to family policy matters.
We hope you enjoyed the program and plenitude in again next week to listen to the show online and to learn more about NC families work to inform, encourage and inspire families across most are a lot of good or website it NC family.Ward that's NC family.org. Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family