A new report from the Empire Center shows New York public schools are on track to experience the largest decline in enrollment since 1981, with 66,424 fewer K-12 students—a 2.6 percent drop—as compared to the 2019-20 school year.  

Though public school enrollment in New York has been gradually declining since 2011, the reduction in enrollment between this year and last marks a significant acceleration of that trend,” Empire Center fellow Ian Kingsbury noted. 

The report, based on preliminary data released by the New York State Department of Education, shows the vast majority of enrollment losses from 2019-20 to 2020-21 occurred in grades K-6. 

Changes in enrollment varied significantly according to a student’s economic status. Enrollment among students classified as economically disadvantaged decreased by 3.9 percent. However, among students not categorized as economically disadvantaged, enrollment increased by 2.9 percent. There were also substantial changes in enrollment according to school type. Charter school enrollment increased by 7.4 percent, while traditional public school enrollment decreased by 3.2 percent.

significant number of students are persistently absent from virtual learning, meaning the real number of students that have functionally exited New York public schools is likely higher than the preliminary estimate provided by the State Education Department. 

“Preliminary enrollment data indicate that the Covid-19 pandemic and related school closures have accelerated recent trends in declining enrollment,”  Kingsbury added. “While these numbers are historic, they likely fail to capture the true number of students to have functionally exited the New York public education system.”

Read the full report here.   

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.  

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