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Why There is a Drop in Public Schools in California

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By Augustine Mbam - - 5 Mins Read

A new report shows that there has been a drastic drop in public enrollment in California. The tremendous decline in California public school enrollment was recorded after the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced parents to withdraw their kids from public school. However, the steep drop in enrollment has slowed down this year. But it seems public schools in California might never get to the level it was before the pandemic. 

Enrollment in public schools for the 2022-23 school year fell by 0.69%, representing about 40,000 students. Added to the all-time drop since the pandemic, the number comes to a staggering 5,852,544 students. The 2023 decline in public school enrollment in the state is higher than the five years before the pandemic. But it is definitely lower than 2 years after the pandemic (2021 to 2022). 

According to a statement from the California Department of Education, the new data on the decline shows some promising signs. For the kindergartens and classes seven and eleven, it has seen some stabilizing enrollment numbers. But things still seem inadequate for the higher classes, as they continue to witness a decline in the number of students enrolling in the school. "student enrollment is beginning to stabilize with increased enrollment in kindergarten and grades seven and eleven," the statement from the  California Department of Education read. 

Teachers Worried Students May Never Come Back 

Teachers in California public schools are worried that students who haven't resumed public schooling two years after the pandemic may never return. The teachers lamented that although it seems the decline is decreasing, students may never come back to school. 

Thomas Dee, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, commented on the issue, saying that public schools in California might never bounce back from the sporadic drop in enrollment. While the new numbers look appealing, the data on lost students is still bad. "I know the state frame is: Enrollment has stabilized. But at some level, that’s missing the point, which is that these kids aren’t coming back. We haven’t seen — and are unlikely to see anytime in the near future — a bounce back from the substantial loss in public school enrollment that occurred over the pandemic," the Stanford professor said.

An empty classroom (Pexels)

In a National Context 

What California public schools are experiencing is similar to what is happening at the national level. The United States has witnessed a steep decline in those acquiring formal education. Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) has cried out a lot about the situation, saying he does not know when the numbers will return to normal. 

At the national level, the issue is very concerning. It raises questions concerning the level of education in the country. Although California public school rankings aren't bad, it is a significant concern. "The nation saw a steep withdrawal from formal education during the pandemic — a sharp decline in all school enrollment compared to natural declines in birth rates — and we still don’t know when or if these families will return," Mccarthy said. 

Apart from the decline in public school enrollment, teachers and other school workers are set to face the consequences. The major one would be layoffs, as several public schools will soon be laying off extra workers due to a lack of students. It is also noted that the pandemic made many students drop out of school to work and support their families. Also, vulnerable students are withdrawn and sent to private schools.