The Future Health of Homeschooling and Public Education
In the previous posts from this blog series, the discussion was centered around the growth of homeschooling, the reasons for that growth, the increase in homeschooling globally and the different styles of homeschooling.
In this final part of the series, we are posed with inevitable questions. What is the future of homeschooling? Will it continue to grow? How will educational styles change with growth? Will public schools be affected?
In recent years, homeschooling has increased worldwide at a faster pace than in the United States. In America, homeschooling is also continuing to grow; nationwide, it is increasing at a rate of 2% annually, with regions of the country showing dramatic growth of nearly 30%.
How is this growth affecting public schools? According to an article published by CRPE (Center on Reinventing Public Education) in 2017, public school enrollments increased from 1990 to 2017 by 25%. Current data suggest that this rate is constant and is projected to continue through 2025. However, public schools and school systems regionally are reporting declines even as the national totals rise. While CRPE sites the main reason for the decline is demographics (primarily, more families are moving out of rural areas or areas that have become increasingly economically depressed) the second largest reason is families choosing different forms of education.
Homeschooling accounts for a small percentage of the draw from public education. Interestingly, Charter schools are the fastest growing form of education outside of traditional public schools. Statistics vary, but it is widely estimated that nearly 3% of all school-aged students attend a charter school and enrollment is projected to continue at a rate of 10% annually. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately managed. Like public schools, they do not charge tuition and must meet academic standards. The main difference is charter schools have freedom over how they manage their operations- such as staffing, curriculum, schedules, and budgets.
Homeschoolers currently account for 2% of all school-aged students. Again, with homeschooling statistics, data is not specific and it is difficult to determine if some students attending Charter schools may also be homeschool students that follow the Eclectic method of education. Hybrid homeschooling, which is similar to Eclectic homeschooling with the exception that Hybrid students specifically split their educational time between homeschooling and attending classes from the public, private, charter or homeschool cooperatives, is sometimes not considered as homeschooling at all by traditional homeschoolers. With the flexibility inherent to Eclectic, Hybrid and Charter schools these educational models are very likely to become the predominant method of non-public school education and will only continue to grow in popularity as families look to less traditional models of education.
The one form of education that is clearly in major decline is private schools. Various sources report the decline as anywhere from 12-19%. All data proves that private schools are becoming more elite and the price of tuition reflects this change. In just the first decade of the 2000s, tuition at most private schools soared nearly 75% (significantly outpacing the rate of inflation for that time) and during that period of time, nearly 3,300 private schools closed their doors.
Public schools are experiencing the effects of the shift towards charter schools and homeschooling. In a 2018 Washington Post article, the author points to the surge of families that turn to homeschool, especially after reports of mass shootings at a public school. The article highlights “violence and bullying” being a driving force behind the new majority of homeschool families, but points squarely to “school shootings tip the balance for many.” These observations aptly sum up much of what families in the last decade have reported as their reasons for homeschooling. Recent studies claim that overall bullying and violence in public schools is in decline; however, some organizations disagree. A report released by the CDC states that over 12% of schools that responded to their survey claimed to have incidents of violent bullying at least once per week in their schools and trustED (a K-12 educators website) believe that bullying and violence in public schools have not declined but increased significantly. According to their studies, hate crimes in schools from kindergarten to college has spiked nearly 25%, reports of bullying have grown 5% in just two years. The article includes data from the nonprofit Educator’s School Safety Network which cites a dramatic increase in the number of threats and violent incidents during the 2017-2018 school year alone- nearly a 60% increase. Even more troubling, the nonprofit reports that extreme violent incidents (including physical attacks) rose a shocking 113% during the same time frame.
Data in regards to education often comes across as contradictory. Although nationally charter schools and homeschooling growth appears minimal, regional data and anecdotal evidence clearly illustrate an upward trend of families choosing educational models that offer more freedom and flexibility of schedule, academics, and overall lifestyle. Many families are also choosing non-public school educations due to fears for their children’s safety. As families continue to be driven by dissatisfaction with the academic and social environments of public schools and with the increase in charter schools, ease of technological access to all types of educational material and stronger social structures the trend away from public schools will also increase. Many modern reports speculate that students moving from public schools to charter schools or other forms of non-public education could increase as much as 15-20% by 2025 and begin to make a significant impact (especially regionally) on public school enrollment.