From City Journal:
Though they enrolled 5.2 million students at the height of the baby boom, Catholic schools in the United States have struggled with declining matriculation in the decades since and today have just under 2 million students. This year marks a particularly striking milestone: the first time that charter schools, nationwide, will enroll more students than Catholic schools. Charters’ growing success is not without irony, since the independently run public schools have long imitated the Catholic model: high expectations, discipline, and school uniforms.
What accounts for the decline of Catholic schools and the rise of charters? In a word, competition, though it should be noted that the playing field hasn’t been level—Catholic schools (with a few exceptions) don’t receive public funds, as charters do. Nonetheless, Abe Lackman of Albany Law School analyzed New York State data and concluded that every new charter lures students away from a nearby Catholic school. According to John Eriksen, the outgoing superintendent of New Jersey’s Paterson Diocese Catholic schools, “charter schools are competition, and Catholic schools that don’t recognize that will be on the menu instead of having a seat at the table.”