Chicago Public Schools Lose Another 9,000 Students This Year

Chicago public schools have lost another 9,000 students this school year marking it as the 11th consecutive year of losing families.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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America was once viewed as premier and top-tier in global education. But for years now, the approval rating and success of public schools in the United States have faltered, sending millions to alternative options. In recent years, most of those losses are reported in the nation’s largest cities, such as Chicago, where 9,000 more students left the Chicago public school district behind this school year.

WBEZ Chicago recently reported on how many families have left the Windy City’s public education system. For the 2022-2023 school year, just about 321,000 children will attend Chicago public schools. While 9,000 fewer schoolchildren will be in attendance this year, it is just a piece of the 82,000 some students who have left over the past decade.

This year marks the 11th consecutive year that Chicago public schools have gone down in enrollment. This report is alarming to many, as the northern city is considered the third-largest school district in the entire nation. What’s more, these totals account for the city’s charter and magnet school enrollment figures as well. 

If these trends continue, Chicago public schools could soon lose their ranking and make the Miami-Dade school district in Florida the third largest in America. But even more alarming to city officials is the fact that budgets are based on the number of students in attendance. With dropping enrollment comes school budget cuts as well.

Chicago public schools located in impoverished neighborhoods suffer the most from funding slashes. These schools are cutting crucial staff positions and often go without assistant principals. Others are forced to combine elementary classrooms, meaning teachers often have more kids than they can handle. 

While some argue that fewer students equate to less classroom struggles, as many schools barely are operating at under half capacity, the budget constraints still leave these Chicago public schools severely understaffed. In the end, many public school children are losing out on their chance at a high-quality education. What’s more, demographics show that the majority of students leaving the public education sector in the city are white, meaning the racial gap in education is further strained.

Advocates of open school choice – the ability for tax dollars to travel with a student even if they choose private or homeschooling education – are gaining traction as more states update state laws to implement voucher programs that pay for portions of the costs for families to make the switch. But proponents for Chicago public school systems fear that it only further harms students left in the public sector, by taking even more funding away. As of now, Chicago and the state of Illinois have no extensive school choice programs.

Chicago public schools

There are an array of solutions being presented to try and make changes to Chicago public schools, and steer families back to public education. But for city leaders, the consensus is that smaller schools located in impoverished need to be bolstered in order to stop families from leaving. In order to do this, however, the district would need to implement drastic changes going forward.