RALEIGH — North Carolina lawmakers and State Superintendent Catherine Truitt were some of the attendees of a Raleigh School Choice Week event hosted by the NC Association for Public Charter Schools and NC Coalition for Charter Schools.
The School Choice Week event held in Raleigh on Jan. 26 featured a luncheon for attendees who were treated to student testimonials on the impact school choice has made on their education as well as performances by students representing several charter schools from across the state.
Students from East Voyager Academy (EVA) in Charlotte performed a traditional Chinese dance as did their instructors in a separate performance. EVA serves children in grades K-8 and is the first Mandarin Chinese language immersion charter school in the state.
Attendees were also treated to a performance by students from RISE Southeast Charter School located in Raleigh. RISE stands for Reliance, Integrity, Scholarship, and Excellence. The RISE Steppers showed off their talent while illustrating the values of their school in percussive step-dancing routine that had the audience cheering.
Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston), one of the chairs of the House K-12 Education Committee, was among some of the legislators who attended the event.
“It’s wonderful to see kids participating in events like this and they’re happy,” Torbett told North State Journal about the student performances. “It goes beyond the classroom – very impressive.”
In her remarks at the event, Truitt underscored her past statements that the best people to decide on educational choices for a child are parents and said that is why she “will always be a defender and supporter of school choice.”
Other legislators in attendance included Rep. Erin Paré (R-Wake), Sen. Lisa Barnes (R-Nash), and Sen. Steve Jarvis (R- Davidson).
“I want to thank you for supporting what is so often politically fragile, and that is our system of school choice – in particular, our public charter schools in North Carolina,” Truitt told attendees.
Truitt also added, “I do not believe that a child’s ZIP code should determine where they go to school and I also know that parents, regardless of their socioeconomic background, know when their child is trapped in a school which is not right for them.”
Truitt also referenced the impact of pandemic school closures on education and student achievement as well as project and research her department is doing to examine those effects.
Pandemic school closures prompted parents nationally and in North Carolina to find alternative education options – many of which appear to have continued to thrive in 2022.
Currently, there are 206 public charter schools operating across 63 counties in North Carolina that serve over 130,000 students; roughly 8 percent of the public school population.
The popularity of public charter schools has continued to grow in North Carolina with an estimated 73 percent of the state’s charter schools having a total enrollment waitlist of over 60,000 applicants.
Between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 school years, North Carolina saw 14,312 new students enroll in public charter schools. Homeschooling also surged, going from 90,688 students in 2018-19 to 179,900 in the 2020-21 school year.
There were 102,400 private school students in North Carolina during 2018-19 school year. In the 2021-22 year following the pandemic, private school enrollment jumped to 115,311 students; a 12.6% gain.