California public school enrollment has declined for the fifth consecutive year, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Public school systems have seen a decline of more than 110,000 students. The LA Times attributes the losses to pandemic disruption, writing that ” K-12 campuses struggle against pandemic disruptions and a shrinking population of school-age kids amid widespread concerns that the decrease is so large that educators can’t account for the missing children.”
According to the Times’ reporting of state data, California’s enrollment was at 5,892,240 when measured in 2021. “It is the first time since 2000 that the state’s K-12 population has dipped below 6 million, with large urban districts accounting for one-third of the drop,” the Times writes.
Public school enrollment has seen decreases since 2014-2015, but state officials say that the pandemic is to blame for the large drop over the last two years.
“This year’s decline, which includes charter schools, follows a huge enrollment hit during the 2020-21 school year, when the state experienced the largest drop in 20 years, with 160,000 students,” they report.
“One of the questions that we just have to come back to is, just where are those kids?” said Heather J. Hough, executive director of the Policy Analysis for California Education. “We don’t have satisfying data to answer that question.”
The state’s declining population, caused mainly by fleeing Californians, as well as low birth rates, are also partly to blame, says research fellow Julien Lafortune. While there were hopes that numbers were rebound, “It doesn’t really look like that happened,” Lafortune said. “If anything, it looks like the declines are bigger than projected.”
“Statewide, the largest drops by grade level were among first-, fourth-, seventh- and ninth-graders. By race, the state saw the largest drop in enrolment among white students, a group that declined by 4.9%. They are followed by Black students at 3.6%, Asian students at 1.9% and Latino students at nearly 1%,” writes the Times.