Fewer students are enrolled in public schools across the country amidst the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released by various states and public school districts.
According to The New York Times, Massachusetts public schools have seen 37,000 fewer students, which translates to a 4% decline in enrollment, according to state officials. Over in North Carolina, 5% fewer students were enrolled in public schools at the start of the academic year than in previous years, reports ABC-11. Enrollment has since increased slightly, with school enrollment for the year now down 4% instead of 5%.
For Massachusetts, specifically, enrollment for pre-kindergarten students is 30% lower over previous years, and enrollment for kindergarten-age students is 12% lower, reports The Boston Globe. While younger students make up the highest proportion of those no longer enrolled in the public school system in both North Carolina and Massachusetts, other grades have also been experiencing the public school enrollment decline.
“In some cases, the charter schools are taking them, in some cases privates and parochials,” Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, told The New York Times in an interview. “The bigger tragedy is that some kids aren’t getting anything, because they’ve fallen off the map.”
According to The New York Times, no comprehensive data is currently available about public school enrollment across the United States, but in other places where data is available, such as Montana, Wisconsin, and Missouri, public schools are also experiencing a drop in enrollment. Last month, other news outlets reported a similar phenomenon in other areas, such as Utah, Washington, D.C., and Houston, Texas.
In New York City, which recently held optional in-person learning for some students for roughly two months, public school enrollment has declined about 3.2% from past years. The public school system has since closed for in-person learning.
The closures have been a blow to parents, many of whom have expressed outrage at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to shutter schools the moment that the 7-day average coronavirus case positivity rate in the city reached 3%, the threshold the mayor established for shuttering in-person learning in the summer. (It hit 3.00% last week).
“The city is not any more safe today than yesterday because schools are closed,” Daniela Jampel, a mother of two in New York City, told The New York Times.
“I am no longer content to let four men — Bill de Blasio, Michael Mulgrew, Richard Carranza and Andrew Cuomo — decide whether my children can go to school and whether I as a working mother can have a job and a career,” she said.
Across the country, in the second largest public school district, Los Angeles Unified has lost about 11,000 students as of October, according to NPR.
Enrollment rates have also been declining at colleges and universities, much of which has been attributed to fewer freshmen choosing to attend at all. Figures from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released in October showed freshmen enrollment 16% lower over 2019. Total undergraduate enrollment has dropped 4%.
Declining enrollment affected men more than women, who were enrolling in college at a 2.2% lower rate than in previous years. Enrollment for men, however, dropped by 6.4%.