Public Schools Down 1M Students Since COVID


Classroom | Image by Anna Nahabed/Shutterstock

Since the first government shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, public schools across the country have seen enrollment drop by more than a million students.

The Wall Street Journal reported that this has prompted some school districts across the country to close buildings because they do not have enough pupils or enough funding to keep them open.

Among them, 16 schools closed in November in Jefferson County, Colorado; five schools closed in St. Paul, Minnesota last summer; and Oakland, California voted last February to close seven schools.

Factors such as declining birth rates, a rise in homeschooling, and increasing competition from private and charter schools have been cited as contributing elements to the decline in public school enrollment. Schools in many cities already saw enrollment dropping even prior to COVID-19 shutdowns for these reasons.

When school districts lose students, the result is a loss of funding, as most public schools are funded with taxpayer money from cities, states, and the federal government on a per-pupil basis.

“Districts don’t want to shrink in the same way that we see in other industries,” said Marguerite Roza, director of Georgetown University’s Edunomics Lab.

Districts in cities such as Denver and Indianapolis are presently developing plans to shut down underused schools. More closures may be unavoidable should enrollment continue to decline.

Typically, superintendents and school boards view shutting down schools as a last resort. School closures are usually widely opposed by families and teachers. Closures often involve lengthy battles between parents, unions, and school districts.

“We are subsidizing and adding funds to those schools as much as we possibly can, but it’s just not sustainable,” said St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, national public school enrollment fell by more than 1.4 million students to 49.4 million between fall 2019 and fall 2020. This is roughly a 3% decline.

When schools are shut down, that can signify a struggling district. Thus, families may leave the district and further decrease enrollment. Decreased enrollment further depletes district funding.

“Nobody wants to close a school,” said Tracy Dorland, superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, whose board approved her plan to shut down underused campuses.

Roughly 85 of the country’s 100 largest districts have seen enrollment drop. Major school districts in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Fort Worth saw enrollment deficits of around 10 percent.

While public schools are working on reorganizing their districts and increasing enrollment, charter school enrollment saw a large boost in enrollment from 2019 to 2021.

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, charter school enrollment rose more than 7% from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year, then fell slightly in the 2021-22 school year to about 3.7 million students.

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15 days ago

Parents are pulling their kids out of public schools because the woke teacher unions and teachers are corrupting the minds of children with garbage about choosing pronouns, or changing a child’s sex because one day a kid feels like a boy or girl, and inviting drag queens into schools. If my son was young and still school aged I’d absolutely NOT enroll him in public school these days.

15 days ago

If the product (education) is found to be lacking/inadequate or distorted, consumers (parents) will seek other sources that fulfill the needs.
If public schools want more children in class, provide real life education instead of propaganda and how to pass mandated assessment exams- which they have failed miserably to accomplish.

15 days ago

Who can blame the parents for what the public schools are doing to kids.