The U.S. public school system lost 1.4 million students from the fall of 2019 to the fall of 2020 and failed to return to pre-pandemic enrollment levels in 2021, according to Department of Education (DOE) data analyzed by The Wall Street Journal.
Many districts were already seeing drops in enrollment due to declining birthrates, but a surge in homeschooling along with a mass movement of students into private and charter schools contributed to a nearly 3% drop in public school enrollment from 2019 to 2020, according to the WSJ. Some districts are now struggling to keep shrinking schools funded.
New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Fort Worth, Texas, all saw school enrollment drop about 10% from 2019 to 2021, and 85 0f the 100 largest school districts with available data saw a decline in enrollment in those years, according to the WSJ. Drops in enrollment can result in funding loss for public schools, which typically receive funding on a per-student basis from cities, states and the federal government; with fewer students and less funding, some schools have been forced to close.
“We are subsidizing and adding funds to those schools as much as we possibly can, but it’s just not sustainable,” said St. Paul, Minnesota, Superintendent Joe Gothard told the WSJ. The district shut down five schools last summer, and other districts are making similar moves.
A one-time influx of federal money to public schools may be preventing some from shutting their doors, according to the WSJ. For districts that do have to close schools, consolidated schools are able to offer more classes and extracurriculars at a lower cost.
Jefferson County, Colorado, is moving to close 16 schools and Oakland, California, is closing seven, according to the WSJ. Meanwhile, charter schools saw a 7% surge in enrollment from 2020 to 2021.
The Department of Education did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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