The census pushed a report yesterday called "The Decline in Private School Enrollment."
It's unclear just how many kids are opting out of private schools for a cheaper option nationally, but it looks like the number has fallen from about half a million to 900,000 since 2002 (it is the census, so as good as the numbers and analysis will be, it's always a few years behind-the most recent numbers are for 2010). In Michigan private school enrollment went down by 20,000 between 2008 and 2010.
The report says a couple of things have led to the drop. Catholic schools have taken quite a hit because of sex abuse and subsequent cover-ups. And, because Catholic populations have been suburbanizing, where there are less Catholic schools or maybe they are less needed.
When kids leave private schools, some are going to public schools, charter schools in particular. It's interesting though, that the families that leave private school for public school are the ones that found only a little benefit to private school when compared to tuition. Put another way, families who never really thought private school was worth it in the first place.
One thing that couldn't really be measured well because of lack of data was how the rise in the home school movement is affecting private school enrollment. That means we don't really know how many kids who leave private school go into public school, and how many just leave bricks and mortar schools all together.
What didn't effect private school numbers, at least on a national scale? The Great Recession.
Some families surely needed to change up the education of their kids because times got tight, but it didn't happen in numbers big enough to be a trend.
So what do these numbers really mean? It might mean more people are investing (at least emotionally) in the public school system. Or, it might indicate that folks who decry charter schools as the end to public education might have found a strange bedfellow - private schools.