CV NEWS FEED // As public schools struggle to keep enrollment up, the number of families who send their children to Catholic schools continues to rise. Homeschooling rates, meanwhile, remain significantly higher than they were before public schools first shut down and implemented COVID policies in 2020.
“U.S. public-school enrollment dropped by 1.3 million students to 49.5 million during the two years from fall 2019 to fall 2021 — with the largest decline in the fall of 2020, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to U.S. education,” the National Catholic Register reported Monday.
During the same period, homeschooling rates rose and remained above pre-2020 levels, while Catholic schools saw a spike in enrollment that has continued all the way to this year:
“Almost three years after the start of the COVID-19 health crisis, Catholic schools have continued the legacy that has characterized Catholic education: academic excellence, a strong partnership with parents, a sense of community and a faith-filled education for students nationwide. In the 2022-2023 school year, Catholic school enrollment has grown (0.3%) to 1,693,493 students in 5,920 schools, continuing the two-year trend of increasing Catholic school enrollment across the nation,” the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) stated in a Feb. 6 data release.
In addition, U.S. Catholic elementary and secondary school enrollment rose by 3.8% from the 2020-21 to the 2021-22 school year, according to Annie Smith, vice president of research and data at the NCEA, a Catholic-school education professional organization based in Leesburg, Virginia.
Today, approximately 8% of American households with school-aged children homeschool, “about two and a half times more families” than before 2020.
As CatholicVote has reported,
During 2020 and the years that followed, polling found an increase in support for education alternatives as parents nationwide expressed frustration with public education officials’ policies in response to COVID.
The public education system also saw a drop in enrollment, while private Catholic schools in some areas saw their enrollment spike – especially as they returned to in-person learning and lifted COVID restrictions long before public schools did.
In tandem with the trends away from the public education system in public opinion and the choices of American families, Republicans have made school choice a high priority at both the national and state levels.
Last month, Utah and Iowa became the latest states to pass legislation ensuring universal school choice. Lawmakers in Florida and Texas are considering new school-choice legislation as well.
In the near future, federal lawmakers will consider the Educational Choice for Children Act – a bill designed to bring school choice to every state at once. A number of Catholic organizations, including CatholicVote and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, have endorsed the legislation.