September 21, 2022

Public school enrollment is down statewide. Here’s how SoCal districts are responding

Students across California returned to class this week. But this year, there will be fewer children in public schools.

“Dwindling enrollment is not something new, it’s been impacting schools and education for over a decade, and there are very clear reasons. It’s not just unique to Los Angeles. It’s happening statewide,” said Los Angeles County Schools Superintendent Dr. Debra Duardo.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the California Department of Finance predicted a 7% decline in California public school enrollment between 2018 and 2028. A Public Policy Institute of California report cited lower birth rates and migration from and within the state as reasons for enrollment changes in districts.

More recently, the The Ministry of Finance forecasts a 9% drop – approximately 542,000 students – enrolled between 2021 and 2031.

Last year, the number of students enrolled in public schools fell below six million for the first time since at least 2007. That’s a loss of more than 110,000 students, the second largest drop on a year in more than a decade. The most significant was the decrease of 161,000 students the previous year.

The graph is not displayed correctly? Click here to open in a new window.

The largest declines were a 4.3% drop in Grade 1 and a 5.4% drop in Grade 7. This matches the largest declines from the previous year in Kindergarten and Grade 6.

The graph is not displayed correctly? Click here to open in a new window.

There were similar trends in Southern California counties.

The graph is not displayed correctly? Click here to open in a new window.

Kindergarten enrollment rose slightly from the previous year, but still fell short of pre-pandemic levels.

The graph is not displayed correctly? Click here to open in a new window.

Private school enrollment in schools with more than five students rose about 6%, a reversal from most of the past decade, when private school enrollment was down.

Private school enrollment of five or fewer students is one way to measure homeschooling, officials say, because it’s a way for parents to homeschool their children and the state. does not follow students directly from school to home.

At these alleged home schools, enrollment has been on the rise for three years. It peaked at around 59,000 during the pandemic and last year was still double the pre-pandemic years.

The graph is not displayed correctly? Click here to open in a new window.

Those changes could mean it won’t be cost-effective to keep under-enrolled public schools open, Duardo said.

“So we’re going to see more school closures and it’s very difficult in the communities,” she said.

School closures are already happening in Azusa.

The school district is in the process of reorganizing schools by closing some schools and consolidating others.

Arturo Ortega, superintendent of the Azusa Unified School District, said that in the 2023-2024 school year, the district will close two elementary schools.

“We will close Gladstone High School as a high school, but it will open as a middle school, so that year our middle schools will also close,” Ortega said.

The table is not displayed correctly? Click here to open in a new window.

While school districts may have lost students due to concerns about COVID, masking, and remote instruction in private schools, they have also secured funding.

“It’s historic in terms of the funding that’s come into education. So the districts are not just looking at the curriculum, but they’re also trying to address some of the challenges that families have faced.” said Duardo of LA County.

Ortega at Azusa said they would be able to increase the types and amounts of programs they offer students as well as improve facilities.

By providing more educational opportunities, the districts hope it will soften the blow to communities facing a school closure.

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.