Chattanooga is residence to well-known legacy non-public faculties that some households have attended for generations, together with McCallie Faculty, Baylor Faculty and Ladies Preparatory Faculty, and for many years neighborhood members have cited massive anecdotal numbers of scholars selecting to attend non-public faculties over public faculties.
In current weeks, a number of elected officers and others have cited that at the very least 30% of scholars in Hamilton County don’t attend native public faculties, together with faculty board member Rhonda Thurman, of District 1; Commissioner David Sharpe, of District 6; and Chattanooga Space Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christy Gillenwater.
Public faculty supporters typically level to the exodus of scholars to non-public faculties as an indicator of the perceived low high quality of schooling in Hamilton County. They argue that when college students don’t attend the general public faculties, it robs the native faculty system of the assist of middle-class households and the state cash that follows the scholar.
However a assessment of 2018-19 and 2019-20 faculty 12 months information reveals a a lot completely different image.
So what number of households who dwell in Hamilton County really are selecting non-public faculties over their native public faculties?
Solely 5,503 college students — or about 10.eight% — who’re zoned to attend a Hamilton County public faculty this faculty 12 months (2019-20) as a substitute attend an impartial or parochial faculty, based on Hamilton County Faculties information.
Tennessee Division of Training information reveals solely three,226 youngsters — or about 7% — of Hamilton County college students didn’t attend a public faculty through the 2018-19 faculty 12 months.
Morgan Taylor, spokesperson for the Tennessee Division of Training, stated the division requires districts to report the “variety of college students not enrolled within the conventional public faculty system,” twice a 12 months in Could and December.
“Districts are directed to submit counts of solely college students that reside of their districts and attend every faculty kind. For instance, if a pupil attends a personal faculty positioned in County A, however resides in County B, that pupil could be counted in County B’s reporting,” Taylor added in an e-mail.
Nationally, about 10% of scholars attended an impartial or non-public faculty in 2015, based on the Council for American Personal Training and the Nationwide Heart for Training Statistics.
Attendance percentages routinely have been referenced by elected officers and others in current months because the neighborhood continues a contentious debate in regards to the high quality and funding of Hamilton County’s public faculties — a debate that grew much more heated this summer time because the County Fee weighed a property tax hike.
Dan Challener, president of the Public Training Basis, stated the narrative is dangerous for educators and the general public faculty system — particularly if it has been flawed.
“This dialog of an ever-increasing variety of children not enrolling in public faculties actually drives the dialog away from additional assist for public faculty. It actually demoralizes the principals and lecturers, as a result of it is used to offer proof that the faculties aren’t ok,” he stated. “If you happen to take a look at what’s taking place within the public faculties based on the state, it reveals that the faculties are getting stronger.”
Each Sharpe and Thurman stated they weren’t certain the place the 30% determine originated, however they stated that they had heard it cited in public conferences and by a wide range of elected officers and neighborhood members.
When he was offered with the information, Sharpe stated it was vital and underscores the necessity for the neighborhood to concentrate to the challenges that he says the general public faculties face.
“It doesn’t change the crucial function our public faculties will play sooner or later financial success of Hamilton County,” he stated. “If something, the revelation that our public faculty system is accountable for coaching a bigger share of our workforce ought to give pause to those that have been reluctant to additional put money into our college system.”
Faculty board member Tucker McClendon, of District eight, stated the figures present Hamilton County Faculties caters to most taxpayers and their households within the county.
“It reveals that generally folks like to make use of numbers for his or her political rhetoric with out doing their fact-checking,” he stated. “No matter facet you’re on, it is vital that you simply get your numbers and info straight.”
McClendon was inspired that many Hamilton County households are sending their youngsters to native faculties.
“It reveals that the power of our public schooling is vital for the general well being of our neighborhood,” he stated.
Board member Joe Smith, of District three, additionally was stunned by the numbers. He had heard the 30% statistic lately cited by native officers.
“It is nice that we now have non-public faculties and Christian faculties in our neighborhood that provide our college students a high quality schooling, however Hamilton County public faculties are additionally a kind of high quality choices,” Smith stated.
This 12 months, greater than 10,800 college students are enrolled in one of many 39 non-public faculties positioned in Hamilton County, based on 2018-19 state information, however solely about half of these college students are Hamilton County residents.
Scott Wilson, headmaster of Baylor Faculty, will not be shocked by the quantity. Baylor has maintained enrollment of round 1,000 college students for at the very least 20 years, Wilson stated.
“We do job of monitoring demographics in Chattanooga and the encompassing areas,” he stated, including that Hamilton County is according to the nationwide common.
Wilson additionally stated many households at Baylor may need come from public faculties or have some youngsters at Baylor and a few additionally in native public faculties. Most individuals understand Baylor’s legacy and why households may select to attend the varsity, he stated.
Baylor’s 885 day college students in grades 6-12 symbolize 12 counties in Georgia and Tennessee. Of these, 748 college students come from Hamilton County, 54 from Walker and 33 from Catoosa counties in Georgia and one other 20 from Bradley County, Tennessee.
This 12 months, 931 college students in grades 6-12 attend McCallie School. Of these college students, 256 are boarding college students who come from 18 completely different international locations and 24 states.
Regionally, about 280 come from a Chattanooga ZIP code. Greater than 100 come from each the Tennessee and Georgia sides of Lookout Mountain. Others come from areas together with Apison, Cleveland and South Pittsburg in Tennessee and Chickamauga, Dalton, Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold in Georgia.
Ladies Preparatory Faculty’s 561 students represent 28 ZIP codes, based on the varsity.
Although Hamilton County Faculties Superintendent Bryan Johnson has not stated publicly that recruiting college students again from non-public faculties or retaining those that may depart the general public faculty system after center faculty is a precedence, the district launched the “Select Hamilton” marketing campaign this 12 months.
The marketing campaign emphasizes the options available to students in Hamilton County outdoors of their zoned, neighborhood faculty resembling magnet faculties, open enrollment faculties in different areas of the town, constitution faculties and the 28 Future Prepared Institutes in native excessive faculties headed by the district’s new Workplace of Innovation and Faculty Selection and its chief, Jill Levine.
Johnson acknowledged some households will always choose private schools, however public faculties must be a contender when dad and mom are occupied with high quality.
“After I speak to Realtor associations and enterprise teams, we all the time take a look at the information and numbers, however on the finish of the day, we envision success when somebody new strikes to this neighborhood, and after they ask their Realtor, ‘I need my baby to go to an ideal faculty, the place ought to I transfer?’ We wish that Realtor to say, ‘Select any residence you want in Hamilton County,'” Johnson stated.
Johnson additionally famous he’s cautious that the information would not seize the complete image. Many college students in Hamilton County may attend a local public school for grades K-5 and switch to a private school before or after middle school. Some college students who’ve by no means attended a public faculty may not be on the state or the varsity district’s radar, particularly homeschool households which might be required to report back to the county or state their alternative, however generally do not.
State schooling division officers and Hamilton County Faculties officers couldn’t account for the discrepancy within the two units of numbers, however even when 10.eight% of Hamilton County’s college students do attend a personal faculty, the county nonetheless trails Davidson and Knox counties.
Through the 2018-19 faculty 12 months, 15.6% of Davidson County college students didn’t attend a Metro Nashville Public Faculty and 1 out of each 5 college students in Knox County — or 19.5% — attended a college aside from a public faculty, based on state information.
Hamilton County non-public faculty attendance extra carefully mirrors Williamson, the rich Nashville suburb, the place 5,833 college students — or 12.7% — of scholars attend a personal faculty. In Memphis, solely 9.four% of scholars attend an impartial or non-public faculty slightly than Shelby County Faculties.
Gillenwater was unable to be reached for remark for this story.
HOW WE DID THE STORY
— The Occasions Free Press obtained data from the Tennessee Division of Training and Hamilton County Faculties in its reporting. The data, obtained by way of open data requests, included a spreadsheet referred to as “2018-19 Personal and House Faculty Pupil Numbers by District” containing information reported by every faculty district in Tennessee in Could to the state schooling division — Hamilton County’s was three,226.
— These numbers have been cross referenced with Hamilton County’s 2019-20 reported information, requested through the varsity district, and located to be completely different — 5,503. One other doc, obtainable on-line here , collects non-public faculty enrollment at each “private faculty” within the state as of June 25, 2019 — Hamilton County’s is 10,814. Particular person faculty enrollment information damaged down by demographics was obtained from faculty officers.
— Lastly, enrollment information for each faculty district within the state is accessible on-line through the TN State Report Card, at reportcard.tnk12.gov. As of Nov. 26, Hamilton County Faculties enrollment is 45,300.
— Since not each non-public faculty pupil is zoned for a Hamilton County public faculty or is from a household that resides in Hamilton County, the overall potential enrollment for the county’s public faculties is 50,803 — of these, 5,503 attend non-public faculty, or 10.eight%.