Public school enrollment in Wake County grew by just 42 students this year. That's nearly 2,000 students less than county officials had projected. The decline in growth is in line with trends seen across the state and country.
The dip comes as more North Carolina families are sending their children to charter schools. From 2015 to 2016, charter school enrollment in the state grew by more than 15,000 students.
Meanwhile, the number of public school students decreased by nearly 5,000. Charter school student enrollment growth has since slowed. Still, 1,500 more Wake County students are attending them this year.
Similar declines in enrollment growth are occurring in other parts of the state and country. That has implications for school funding, which in North Carolina is based partly on enrollment projections.
Emily Parker, a policy analyst for the Education Commission of the States, says rural areas have seen student population declines for years, but the phenomenon is now being seen in urban areas, too.
“The fact of the matter is that...education systems are going to have start finding more innovative ways to educate fewer students with less money,” Parker said.
The decline in public school enrollment growth in Wake County may also be a result of declining birth rates. Researchers at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education have predicted K-12 enrollment could drop by more than 8 percent in the next decade.
Causes behind the slump in student enrollment growth in Wake County may include more families opting for charter schools and fewer babies being born.