MARYLAND – A significant drop in public school enrollment nationwide could have lasting effects in Maryland, some of which could extend well beyond the pandemic.
New analysis by The Associated Press and Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering education, shows student enrollment fell last year in nearly every state in the United States, including Maryland.
Hawaii was the only exception, where registrations rose a paltry 0.2 percent.
The pandemic is probably the culprit of the sharp declines, according to the analysis of the AP.
When schools moved online during the pandemic, many parents chose to send their children elsewhere. While some took children out of public schools to home-school them, others enrolled their children in private schools, as many continued to offer in-person instruction.
Now, some school officials fear these students will never return, the AP reported. If they don’t, it’s a change that could not only affect district funding, but also change the demographics of American schools.
In Maryland, the total number of students enrolled in K-12 grades fell from 909,414 students in 2019-2020 to 882,538 in 2020-21, marking a drop of 2.96%.
Nationally, K-12 enrollments fell 2.6% in 41 states last fall, according to analysis by the AP and Chalkbeat.
In the United States, the decline was most pronounced among white students, whose enrollment fell more than 4%.
In Maryland, the largest drop was also seen among white students, with enrollment dropping 6.06%.
Here’s a look at how enrollment has changed across Maryland’s demographic groups:
- Black students: -1.85%
- Hispanic students: -0.61%
- Asian American students: -0.8%
- White students: -6.06 percent
By the numbers
At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, districts reported losing thousands of students.
Baltimore County Public Schools lost nearly 4,000 students, according to WBAL, which said the public school system in neighboring Howard County had lost nearly 2,000 students.
These weren’t the only districts where families were making alternative plans.
Montgomery County Public School Enrollment was down to more than 3,300 students, OMCP reported.
Anne Arundel County Inscription would have decreased by 1,475 students.
Registration at Harford County public schools fell by about 1,000, according to The Aegis.
Early signs show that enrollment may not fully recover, according to the AP report. A sustained drop in registrations could mean two things.
First, schools that lose students will eventually lose funding for those students.
Generally, public schools are funded on a per student basis through federal, state and local sources. Almost half of these funds come from local property taxes. Fewer students could mean an increase in property taxes to offset the decrease in funding per student.
A decline in registrations is also likely to hit the wallet in poorer neighborhoods hardest, Bruce Baker, professor of education at Rutgers University, told National Public Radio.
“If you have a district where 70, 80% of the money comes from state aid based on a certain number of registrations, which would tend to be a poorer district serving a higher share. high number of low-income and minority students, ”Baker said. said, “These districts stand to lose a lot if the state decides to follow through on using this year’s enrollment numbers as the basis for funding in the future.”
Lower kindergarten enrollment
An October 2020 report from NPR showed that enrollment declines are particularly noticeable in Kindergarten and Kindergarten – the average drop was around 16%. Another analysis from 33 states showed that about 30 percent of all K-12 enrollment declines were attributable to kindergarten.
The AP and Chalkbeat report also corroborated this.
In Maryland, kindergarten enrollments fell 10.29%.
Nationally, no state has avoided a decline in kindergarten enrollment. Some of the biggest declines were reported in other states, including Hawaii, where kindergarten enrollment fell more than 15%, and Oregon, where enrollment fell more than 14.5%.
Instead, parents choose to send their young children to charter schools or daycare centers.
The two preschool and kindergarten enrollments are down “Significantly,” Baltimore City Public Schools reported to Afro, who noted that enrollment began to decline in schools in the city before the coronavirus pandemic.
As more children deprive themselves of the academic and other benefits of kindergarten, experts say this could potentially widen educational inequities
“It all has to do with the quality of this child care environment,” Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, a University of Pittsburgh professor who studies child care and preschool education, told Chalkbeat. “Well-off parents can buy their place in high quality settings, regardless of the constraints they face, while families with fewer resources have fewer choices and face very difficult decisions.”
– By Megan VerHelst and Elizabeth Janney