If projections hold, charter-school enrollment in Durham County will grow by 700 next school year, potentially pushing enrollment in the county’s soon-to-be 14 traditional charter schools to 7,000 students.
About half the projected growth comes from Discovery Charter School and the 350 students it expects to enroll in September. Also, KIPP-Durham, which opened with fifth and sixth grades this year on Holloway Street, is expected to add a seventh-grade class to increase its enrollment by 90 students this fall.
Durham Public Scools, meanwhile, has postponed opening its STEAM-themed Eagle Academy planned for the campus of N.C. Central University, due to budgetary constraints. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.
KIPP leaders went door-to-door in the surrounding neighborhood to recruit students, prompting DPS board Chairman Mike Lee to ask last week, “Why can’t we recruit as aggressively as KIPP?”
DPS expects its enrollment – currently 33,151students – to decrease by 500 students next school year.
It would be the third consecutive year of declining enrollment.
That’s a troubling trend for DPS leaders because fewer students translates into fewer state dollars for teachers and programs.
“Every time that we decrease around 21 students, we lose a teacher position because the state allots teacher poistions,” Superintendent Bert L’Homme said.
So, keeping more students in DPS classrooms is quickly becoming a fiscal neccessity for a district facing an $8.5 million budget shortfall.
A 700-student enrollment increase in charter schools, at about $3,100 per student, would mean DPS would pass through about $2.2 million in local funding to the 14 charters.
Add to that a projected $800,000 in new money for charters and DPS will be obligated to increase its pass through to charters to more than $23 million compared to the $20.5 million it forked this year.
Charter school enrollment next year is projected to represent about 18 percent of all students enrolled in the county’s publicly funded schools, which include charters.
Under state law, DPS must handed over 18 percent of any new funding it receives from the county, which accounts for the $800,000.
Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645