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 has almost 1.5 million students enrolled in public schools for the 2019-20 school year.
Another popular option are charter schools. Next year, North Carolina will have more than 200 charter schools. The 100-school cap on charters was lifted in 2011, meaning the state is just now about to double its number since that happened.
According to DPI’s statistical profile, there were just over 114,000 students enrolled in the state’s charter schools in 2019-20. Charter schools are not run by school districts but instead run by for-profit or non-profit 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 just over 100,000 for the 2018-19 school year. Along with this, the state has opportunity and 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 home schools in 2018-19 at just over 142,000.
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.
As part of school choice week, we will be attending school choice week sponsored events.
We will highlight the many innovative options traditional public schools offer. Guilford County Schools has a whole traditional public school choice catalog that details the choices students have within a traditional setting. We will be visiting one of the district’s schools to give people an idea for what public school choice can look like.
For most parents, choice comes down to fit — is the school they choose a good fit for their child?
This week we will be highlighting the diversity of options available to families across North Carolina, and chronicling the ways in which the state’s families are choosing to educate their kids.
We hope you will read along with us and share your stories of fit and choice with me on Twitter. You can follow me @agranadoster.