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What’s happening this school choice week

This week is National School Choice Week. It’s held every January, and its purpose is to highlight all the options parents and students have for attending K-12 schools.

Traditionally, when people think about school choice in our state, they think about the three major options available to North Carolina students: public, private, and charter.

Traditional public schools remain the biggest option for North Carolina families. According to the state Department of Instruction’s (DPI) statistical profile, North Carolina had almost 1.5 million students enrolled in public schools for 2020, the most recent year for which data is available.

Another popular option are charter schools. This year, North Carolina has just over 200 charter schools. The 100-school cap on charters was lifted in 2011, meaning the state is just now doubling its number since that happened.

According to DPI’s statistical profile, there were just over 120,000 students enrolled in the state’s charter schools in 2020. Charter schools are not run by school districts but instead run by for-profit or nonprofit charter operators. These schools get certain flexibilities from the rules and requirements that apply to traditional public schools.

And then there are private schools. The state Department of Administration has enrollment in the state’s private schools at almost 104,000 for 2020. Along with this, the state has opportunity scholarships, disability scholarships, and education savings accounts that help students attend the private school of their choice.

Outside of these options, another big chunk of North Carolina students are homeschooled. The state Department of Administration puts the number of students enrolled in homeschools in 2020 at almost 150,000. 

But school choice is more extensive than even these categories capture. In the traditional public school setting, there are a number of other options — lab schools, magnet schools, language-immersion schools, restart schools, and more.

This year, school choice week is a little bit different. Because of COVID-19, most of the events surrounding National School Choice Week are taking place virtually. Here is a roundup of some things to pay attention to.

National School Choice Week kickoff

National School Choice Week started off Monday, Jan. 25 with a 2021 live virtual kick off. You can watch that below.

John Locke Foundation on education savings accounts

Education savings accounts are a form of school choice paid for by the North Carolina government that give eligible students money to pay for educational services, including funding for private school tuition.

The John Locke Foundation started off the week with a panel discussion about education savings accounts and the concept of funding students instead of educational systems.

Watch the talk below.

Student videos

The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools had to come up with some creative ideas for school choice week this year thanks to COVID-19. The organization asked member schools to make videos about how their schools were serving students during the pandemic and through adversity.

Here are a couple, but you can find them all here.

Parents for Educational Freedom North Carolina

Parents for Educational Freedom North Carolina, an organization that advocates for school choice, has a bunch of school choice week content.

First, you can listen to this podcast where PEFNC’s Brian Jodice talks with Andrew Campanella, the president of National School Choice Week.

There are also a number of school choice week videos on the PEFNC website, including this one.

PEFNC is hosting a school choice week virtual art contest. More than 170 North Carolina students submitted artwork, and PEFNC along with Imagifriends creator DJ Svaboda will announce the winners on Wednesday at 11:45 a.m.

Eggs & Issues

Every year, the Public School Forum of North Carolina holds its Eggs & Issues breakfast where it unveils the top education issues the organization is paying attention to for the coming year. In a week celebrating school choice, it’s important to remember that public schools are part of that choice, and the Public School Forum is one of the biggest advocates for public schools in North Carolina.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.