Indiana K-12 enrollment held steady in this third school year after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recent data from the Indiana Department of Education. Some 1,124,109 students were attending public, charter and private schools as of the department’s “count day” in September. The figures were released last week.
Public schools enrolled 87.5% of the students while charter schools enrolled 4.7% and accredited private schools enrolled 7.8%. The state doesn’t report enrollment of unaccredited schools.
The share of students who attend private, charter and public schools varies widely by region, however. Of students who live in the Indianapolis Public Schools district, for example, 20,301 attend IPS schools and 18,528 attend charter schools. (About half of the charter students attend so-called innovation network schools, charter schools that have contracts with IPS).
The charter school share is even larger in Gary, where 5,459 students who live in the district attend charter schools and only 3,822 attend Gary Community Schools, according to a state Department of Education transfer report.
In some areas, “school choice” is more likely to mean attending a private school. In Fort Wayne, nearly seven times as many students attend private schools using state-funded vouchers as attend charter schools, the transfer report says.
Statewide, private school enrollment grew by 5.4% this year, possibly from the continued rollout Indiana’s increasingly generous school voucher program. The legislature expanded the program in 2021, raising the income eligibility threshold to $154,000 for a family of four.
Enrollment in charter schools grew by 2.2% while the number of students attending public schools was essentially unchanged; it declined by 0.3%.
In the fall of 2020, the first year after the start of the pandemic, enrollment declined, especially in the lower grades. It seemed likely that many families put off enrolling their children in kindergarten, which isn’t required in Indiana. Enrollment rebounded in fall 2021.