Private School Enrollment Down Nationally But Not In Idaho

Mar 19, 2013

Researchers at the U.S. Census Bureau have believed for some time that private school enrollment has been on the decline. Now Bureau statistician Stephanie Ewert says they’re sure. Her new report does not say why fewer students are choosing privates schools, but Ewert says the growth of charter schools may have something to do with it. Around the country she found that places where charters grew, private school enrollment got smaller.

“Idaho would be a great example of something that doesn’t match the national trend,” she says.

More than 20,000 Idaho K-12 students attend private school. Those enrollment numbers remained relatively unchanged from the middle of the decade to 2010, despite growth in charters.

Ewert says while private schools are shrinking nationally, it’s fastest for Catholic schools.

This life-sized statue of Jesus in the Bishop Kelly lobby underscores the fact that it is a private religious school. Nationally private school enrollment is shrinking, especially in Catholic schools. Boise's Bishop Kelly High School is growing. A school spokesperson says BK's advantage is an emphasis on spirituality unavailable in public schools, both charter and traditional.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Katie Kerby with Boise’s Bishop Kelly High School says the Catholic school community has observed this trend for a while. But Bishop Kelly, like the state as a whole, is bucking that trend.

“Currently we would say confidently that we are an institution on the rise,” Kerby says. “We have growing enrollment, we are financially stable.”

Kerby says Bishop Kelly has about 700 students now. They may have to cap enrollment in the next few years because they don’t want to get too big. Kerby doesn’t see charter schools as competition. She says parents send their kids to Bishop Kelly because they want a Catholic education, not just a good school.

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