Stoops: Homeschoolers are 107,000 students strong

Thirty years after the N.C. Supreme Court recognized the legality of homeschooling in Delconte vs. State of North Carolina, the state’s home school population has eclipsed the 100,000-student mark.  That is a far cry from the 1,500 students homeschooled a year after the Delconte decision.

The N.C. Division of Non-Public Education is the state agency responsible for home and private school oversight and data collection.  This week, the agency published annual private and home school statistics for the 2014-15 school year.

CommenTerry by Dr. Terry Stoops

by Dr. Terry Stoops

Obviously the big news is that the homeschool population eclipsed 100,000 students for the first time.  The 106,853 figure published by the Division of Non-Public Education is an estimate based on random sampling of the number of schools operating during the school year, so the actual total is likely higher.  Regardless, that should not discount this year’s achievement and its historical significance.

Here are some interesting data points based on the latest data available:

  • For the second year in a row, homeschoolers outnumber private school students.  Private schools enrolled 97,259 students last year, which was nearly 10,000 fewer students than home schools.
  • If homeschools were their own school district, they would be the third largest district in North Carolina.  While their student population is far behind Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake counties, arguably they are more influential than both.
  • The total number of homeschool students continues to grow rapidly.  Over the last year, there was a 9 percent increase in the number of homeschoolers.  The homeschool population has increased by a staggering 34 percent over the last four school years.
  • Last year, there were an estimated 10,407 home school students in Wake County.  Wake is the first county in the state to enroll over 10,000 homeschoolers and has the largest home school population in the state.
  • Last year, 33 of the state’s 100 counties had over 1,000 homeschool students, five more than a year earlier.  Six years ago, only seven counties reached that enrollment level.

The homeschool movement is no longer monolithic.  North Carolinians from a variety of ethnic, racial, political, and religious backgrounds make great sacrifices to homeschool their children.  Some endeavor to provide an education consistent with their family’s religious or philosophical views.  Others are dissatisfied with the academic quality of their local public schools.  Still others homeschool due to concerns about bullying or potentially harmful social environments sometimes found in traditional school settings.

Regardless of the reasons why they decide to homeschool, more and more parents in North Carolina are making that choice.  And it is a choice worth celebrating, contemplating, and protecting.

Terry Stoops is the director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation.

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