Education Facts: Pennsylvania Private and Charter School Enrollment

Education Facts: Private and Charter School Enrollment

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Enrollment in Pennsylvania’s private and non-public schools remained steady for more than a decade, at around 330,000 students, but began to decline sharply after 2000. Total enrollment in private schools dropped by 32% between 2000-01 and 2013-14.

During this same period, enrollment in public charter schools has been on the rise, jumping nearly six-fold, from 18,981 students in 2000-01 to 128,716 in 2013-14.

While much of the growth in charter enrollment comes from students who transfer from other public schools, a portion of the new enrollment may be from students who were previously enrolled in private schools.

The chart below compares charter school enrollment gains and private school enrollment losses. For example, in 2013-14, charter school enrollment grew by 9,251 students, while private school enrollment dropped by 1,637 students, a smaller decline than previous years, showing possible stabilization of a downward trend. While many factors might explain reductions in private school enrollment, the rise of charter schools could be an important factor.

To preserve private school enrollment, the General Assembly created the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program in 2001, which businesses are given an almost dollar-for-dollar tax break for donations to organizations that provide scholarships to private schools and pre-kindergarten programs. In 2010-11, the EITC provided scholarships to approximately 40,000 students, or 17% of all private school students.

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