Are charter schools killing private schools?

As charter school networks grow, private school enrollment declines, according to research.

March 21, 2013 |
Photo: Chance Agrella @ChanceAgrella

A recent post on Atlantic Cities highlights research by the U.S. Census Bureau's Stephanie Ewert that shows a correlation between the growth of charter schools and the decline in private school enrollment.

Private school enrollment in the U.S. dropped by 11% during the last decade (2002-12) to 4.7 million, and the share of children attending private schools dipped to 10% in 2010.

In her research report, Ewert cites three possible explanations for the decline:

  1. Economic conditions - during times of economic decline, more families are unable/willing to pay tuition for private schooling.
  2. Rise of charter schools - The data show that for both 2008-09 and 2009-10, the majority of states that saw an increase in charter school enrollment also saw a decline in private school enrollment.
  3. More home-schooled children - While there isn't enough data from states to make a strong argument here, it is worth noting that there was an increase in the number of home-schooled children over the study period for most of the states examined, and some of these states also saw a significant drop in private school enrollment.


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