(The Central Square) – The number of students attending public schools in the 2020-2021 school year has decreased by approximately 3% compared to the previous year.
The The data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal agency that analyzes education figures.
The 3% drop represents some 1.5 million students according to the preliminary report. A final report won’t be available until next spring, according to NCES. The figures come from reports generated by state education departments.
There were 51.1 million students enrolled in conventional and public charter schools in the 2019-2020 school year.
Even more striking is the drop in enrollments among the youngest. Preschool enrollment fell 22%, and preschool and kindergarten enrollment combined fell 13%.
In contrast, secondary school enrollment fell 0.4%.
Ross Santy, associate commissioner of NCES, pointed out how rare it is for public schools to lose students.
“Kindergarten to Grade 12 enrollment in public schools across our country has increased almost every year since the turn of this century,” Santy said in a statement. “Prior to this year, in the last few years where we have seen a drop in registrations, these were small changes representing less than 1% of total registrations. “
Some 29 states have experienced enrollment declines of between 1% and 3%. Washington, DC, Utah, South Dakota, the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa recorded declines of less than 1%.
Vermont, Mississippi and Puerto Rico all saw their registrations drop by more than 5%, while Washington, New Mexico, Michigan, Kentucky and Maine lost between 4% and 5% of registrations.
The coronavirus pandemic and government-imposed restrictions that closed schools were the main driver behind the decline in the number of public school students.
The sharp drop in enrollment among younger students confirms earlier speculation that families have chosen to keep these students out of school rather than attempt virtual learning.
Home schooling, meanwhile, more than doubled between the end of the 2019-2020 school year and the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
According to the US Census Bureau, 5.4% of US households said they would home-school their children in the spring of 2020. As of October 2020, that number had risen to 11.1%.
“It is clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are looking for solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs, and their learning and social needs. -emotional feelings of their children, ”the Census Bureau said in a recent report.