Private Education in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

April 1, 2019

Private education establishments employ about 800 people in Northwest Oregon. Although this is only about 4 percent to 5 percent of the jobs provided by public education in the five counties, it is an important part of the educational effort in the region. Private education establishments provide not only alternatives to public schools for the general education of children, but they also provide different specialized education that is generally not available from public institutions.

All five counties in Northwest Oregon – Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook – have private educational establishments. The industry includes schools such as Ashbrook Independent School and Corvallis Walfdorf School, both in Benton County; Fire Mountain School in Clatsop County; Columbia County Christian School; Lincoln City Seventh Day Adventist School in Lincoln County; and Neskowin Valley School in Tillamook County. But the education industry also includes colleges, business schools, management training, technical and trade schools, art schools, sports and recreation businesses, language institutes, driving schools, and educational support services.

What about charter schools? Whether charter schools are public or private is more complicated; it depends on whom you ask. The public school districts that charter them view them as public schools. They are funded by taxpayers and often accept a broad range of students. The Oregon Employment Department bases its classification on the initial organization of the enterprise. If the school was founded as a private organization, as many nonprofit corporations are, then it will be classified as a private entity for unemployment tax purposes even though it later receives a charter and funding from a public school district. As a result, Northwest Oregon has both public and private charter schools from a tax perspective even though school districts consider them all to be public schools. So some charter schools are included in this analysis and some are not.
Employment in private education has been increasing nearly without interruption since 2001 in Northwest Oregon. The only notable decline in employment (-30 jobs) was in 2016, and that was due to two enterprises being assigned different industry codes. Employment growth averaged about 4 percent per year from 2001 through 2017 for a total increase of 84 percent. About 60 percent of the region’s private education employment is in Benton County.

Part of the growth is due to expansion at existing establishments, and part is due to new establishments. In 2001, there were 69 educational establishments with employees in Northwest Oregon. By 2017, there were 99 establishments, an increase of 43 percent.

Total payroll in private education increased by 96 percent in Northwest Oregon from 2001 through 2017, after adjusting for inflation. This was even faster than the 84 percent increase in employment. This indicates that real wages are increasing in the industry, though not rapidly.

Northwest Oregon’s population increased by 28,624 (+13%) from 2001 through 2017. The much more rapid growth in private education employment and the number of enterprises suggests that people in the region place a high value on education and understand the importance of education to work prospects. This industry will probably continue to grow more rapidly than the total population.

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