(UnitedVoice.com) – For decades, parents and grandparents expressed concerns about the quality of K-12 education in this country. While school boards and voters approved bonds for bigger and nicer school facilities, the ratings of American schoolchildren weren’t going up. President George W. Bush tried to solve the problem by requiring more testing in the No Child Left Behind law. That didn’t work.
Today, America is facing a new problem in public schools. Before the pandemic, public school enrollment dropped 3% nationwide in the 2019-2020 school year. As we head into 2022, the numbers aren’t improving. Instead, they’re getting worse. It would be easy to blame COVID fears for the problem, but it’s more complicated than that. A theme of interwoven issues is driving down student populations, and all the tax dollars spent building Cadillac schools means they’ll be less than full while taxpayers continue to foot the bill.
Where Are the Students?
Enrollments are dropping across the country. In some places, it’s worse than others. There are also various reasons for the decline in student populations. COVID is only one piece of the pie and possibly the smallest part.
Consider this… in Boston, the student population was 57,340 in the 2014-2015 school year. This year, it’s 48,654. That’s a decline of approximately 9,000 students. It’s not likely to improve. Why? Because some statistics say Boston is becoming a childless city. From 1980 to 2020, the city added 130,000 residents, but the number of school-aged children dropped by 25,000. In 2018, only 10.8% of Boston’s residents were school-aged.
In Los Angeles, the school population declined 10% over the previous decade. Over the next decade, it may drop another 10%. Almost every major city is experiencing a similar trend.
Notable Trends Are Causing the Public School Numbers to Drop
Before you conclude people are moving out of cities and pulling their kids from schools, that’s only part of the equation. Yes, that’s happening, however, childbirth rates are also way down. In 2007, the fertility rate was 2.21 babies per woman. In 2019, it fell to 1.66. More women are having fewer babies. Is that a good or bad thing? You decide. Nonetheless, it’s a fact.
In addition, private school enrollments increased 6% over the last two years of the pandemic. It may not seem like much, but that’s significant when you’re talking about thousands of students. Charter schools are also experiencing a surge, especially among parents who saw their children perform better at home than in a distracting classroom. In 2020, they enrolled nearly 240,000 students nationwide. Homeschooling is also seeing a resurgence as some parents choose to keep their kids home, and for them, it’s working.
The key question here isn’t whether one form of education is better than another. The pivotal question is, what happens to taxpayers who aren’t getting taxpayer relief for schools with fewer students? At some point, one might think that’s a legitimate question to ask school boards and state lawmakers.
Will the trend reverse in the years ahead?
We’ll see. One never knows for sure.
Don Purdum, Independent Political Analyst
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