Analysis shows pandemic did not provide big boost to private schools

Written by on July 14, 2021

Analysis shows pandemic did not provide big boost to private schools

By Avi Wolfman-Arent / Keystone Crossroads

July 14, 2021

FILE – In this July 24, 2020 file photo, Fairfax County Public School buses are lined up at a maintenance facility in Lorton, Va. The Justice Department is highlighting a number of actions school officials should take to increase safety, including improving mental health resources, monitoring social media accounts and improving physical safety measures. The report was released Tuesday and was a culmination of a federal school safety working group. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

While many public school districts in Pennsylvania started classes online last year, lots of private schools offered in-person options.

But that did not actually lead to a big enrollment bump for private schools.

In fact, private school enrollment declined slightly across the commonwealth.

Gary Niels, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools says smaller schools took the biggest hit as families dealt with economic uncertainty.

“I think for some of the small schools that have been living on the edge there has been consistent anxiety about making it. And that’s why they’re so nervous about this coming year,” Niels says. 

Edward J. Fuller, an associate professor in the Department of Education Policy Studies in the College of Education at the Pennsylvania State University, crunched the numbers and says if families left public schools for private ones during the pandemic,.there weren’t many of them.

“This was not some en masse transfer of people pulling their kids out of public schools and putting them into private schools because they were doing in-person learning,” Fuller says.

There was also a significant dip in public school enrollment. A lot of that was in kindergarten suggesting parents may have just postponed entering their kids into the system.

Things were different at charter schools. Cyber charters saw a massive enrollment jump, and regular charters held steady while other types of schools lost students.


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