In the latest grim sign for the Empire State’s future, the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon reports that public-school enrollment is headed down to 1950s levels.

Of course, current trends might not continue, but McMahon notes that the state school population is already on a clear decline, with this fall’s enrollment set to be the lowest in nearly 30 years. And the 2.6 million figure includes pre-K toddlers as well as public charter-school students — two whole categories that didn’t even exist before.

McMahon notes that New York hit an all-time peak of 3.5 million in 1970-71, with enrollment dropping a cool million in the 1970s and 1980s before rebounding to nearly 2.9 million students in the 1999-2000 school year.

Westchester, Rockland and parts of the city are the only New York areas to see K-12 growth over the last decade or so. Statewide, it’s down 10 percent since 2000.

You probably haven’t noticed this in your tax bill, because per-student spending keeps rising. From 2007-08 to 2014-15, it’s up 24 percent, more than double the national average.

And even with New York spending far, far above the US average on its schools, its students continue to draw average scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exams — the gold standard tests for measuring achievement.

Of course, that particular bang-for-the-buck calculation is only part of the reason why the state can’t hold on to young parents. But high taxes and poor government translate to rotten job prospects across much of New York, leaving too many young people little choice but to move away.

Still, the bottom line remains the same: If the politicians can’t start giving more New Yorkers reason to hope for their future here, the future will increasingly happen somewhere else.

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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

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