Major School District Expected To See Steep Enrollment Declines Over The Next Decade

This school district is already reeling from steep enrollment declines, and officials expect the matter to worsen over the next decade.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

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enrollment declines

Public school enrollment declines are being witnessed across the nation, but some of the largest cities are taking the hardest hits. At the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the Los Angeles Unified School District enrollment figures dropped over 5%. This has persisted from a 3% drop after the height of the pandemic scare. Now, Los Angeles public schools are expected to experience a 30% drop in enrollment over the next decade

There are many reasons for mass enrollment declines. The pandemic changed the way that parents view the public education system. Population shifts were also a large contributor, as well as the rise of homeschooling and support for school choice. California saw a historic population decline in 2020 as many families fled the state’s strict pandemic mandates. It was the first annual loss recorded in the state’s history as some 182,000 people left, and this trend continued well into 2021, when California lost over 117,000 residents. The shrinking population has an effect on many areas of interest, especially the state of public education — which has come under intense scrutiny. 

Furthering the spread of enrollment declines, the debate over what lessons should be taught in schools rages on. California has been a leader in allowing identity politics to enter classrooms for students of all ages. Parents who oppose racial-based doctrines like those found in Critical Race Theory teachings or culturally responsive training have been labeled as “domestic terrorists,” and even black parents who speak out against this form of learning are being considered “white supremacists.” In addition, California schools are currently fighting lawsuits from parents suing over parental rights regarding transgender secrecy policies which allow students to have sex-changes without their parents’ knowledge. These issues combined with pandemic protocols, which kept students masked and isolated for lengthier periods than other states’ public schools, have all contributed to enrollment declines. 

California saw homeschool applications nearly triple for the 2021-2022 school year. Parents who wish to teach traditional subjects like math, science, and English are avoiding sexuality lessons being implemented in schools altogether. Families who wish to leave failing districts, or schools with ideologies that clash with their values are also turning to charter schools as an option when unable to pay for private schools or educate children at home. The school system has lost about 307,000 students in the past couple of decades and as the enrollment decline trend doesn’t seem to be stopping, another factor is also adding to this estimation. 

The United States is facing a potential population collapse. For years now, the birth rate has not been keeping up with the population rate. As Americans have less children, less often, and marriage rates have also fallen, the public education system is likely to be forced to accommodate the changes that will take place as younger generations grow smaller and smaller in comparison to the population of women of birthing age. Without more students to fill the shoes of their predecessors, enrollment declines are imminent. 

enrollment declines

Public school enrollment determines funding which determines each school’s ability to meet the needs of its students. California’s historic population decrease, along with the growing popularity of alternatives like homeschooling and charter schools, is projected to continue affecting the Los Angeles Public School system. While enrollment declines reshape how schools operate, Los Angeles is an area that is experiencing the sharpest changes.