Where have all the kids gone?
The number of students enrolled in New York state public schools is the lowest recorded in 30 years, a new Empire Center for Public Policy study released Tuesday reveals.
Over the last decade alone, enrollment at public schools has shrunk statewide by 5 percent — even when factoring in the expansion of charter schools and pre-K programs, the analysis found.
Enrollment at 600 of the 700 school districts either dropped or remained stable.
The New York City school district bucked the trend, but just barely — enrollment jumped a modest 1.3 percent from 981,940 in 2008-2009 to 994,953 in the last school year.
Meanwhile, over the past decade, some school districts upstate emptied out.
The number of students plummeted by 55 percent in Ripley Central, 32 percent in Otsego, 30 percent in Cassadaga Valley, 27 percent in Elmira, 25 percent in Barker, 22 percent in Tupper Lake and 21 percent in Saranac Lake.
Enrollment peaked at 2.9 million in 1990-2000 and has dropped to 2.54 million since then, the study said.
The more than 10 percent decrease in New York school enrollment since the turn of the century contrasts with a national enrollment increase of 7 percent during the same period, the analysis noted.
Meanwhile, the drop in enrollment at private and parochial schools was even worse — falling 8 percent since 2008-09.
“The difference reflects underlying demographic trends, including upstate New York’s continuing population decline and out-migration losses to other states,” said the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon.
He said the enrollment shrinkage should prod Albany to make dramatic changes — including allowing for the consolidation of school districts.
“These enrollment trends highlight the need for the kind of innovative reforms that New York’s governor, Legislature and union-dominated education establishment have resisted. For example, rural districts need more regulatory freedom to experiment with distance learning and regional high school programs,” he said.
McMahon also said school districts need relief from one-size-fits-all state laws that limit their flexibility in the hiring, assignment and compensation of teachers.
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