The decline in public school enrollment this fall has been documented in several key cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. The Los Angeles district schools lost 4.76 percent of its public school students last fall, while this year it lost an additional 6 percent.
Many school districts count student enrollment data in October which then determines their funding levels. Last year, schools were given a break on enrollment declines due to the coronavirus disruption, but this year declines in student enrollment will mean declines in public school funding.
New data show that San Francisco has lost 3,500 students over the past two academic years, which is projected to cost the district $35 million.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that in Kansas, the Department of Education released its data on school enrollment trends showing that the state’s public schools lost more than 15,000 students over the past two academic years. “The enrollment decline was particularly striking, as there was effectively no rebound from 2020 to 2021 in students returning to the classroom. Many — but not all pupils — migrated to homeschooling or virtual education platforms. Others exited the state or disappeared from the school system entirely.”
Some school districts are not being totally transparent about the extent of the public schooling retreat. As Reason Magazine’s Matt Welch recently reported: “What if New York City’s K-12 enrollment numbers for government-run schools are so embarrassingly low that the city is deliberately suppressing them to avoid criticism for how it has handled school policies during COVID-19? That’s the blunt question being asked this week not just by libertarian school-choice advocates or blogs and local tabloids, but by the Democratic Party heavyweights heading up the City Council’s Education Committee and the largest local teachers union.”
The speculation is that New York City has seen plummeting public school enrollment this year. Early indicators of this decline included last spring’s unexpected drop in New York City kindergarten enrollment registrations, which fell 12 percent for the 2021/2022 academic year compared to the previous year.
Research suggests that the majority of students are leaving public schools for homeschooling, while Catholic schools and other private schools have seen increases. In Chicago, Catholic school attendance is up 6.5 percent, while in Boston, Catholic schools gained 1,300 new students. This uptick comes after decades of decline in Catholic school enrollment. Charter schools are also getting a boost.