New York public school enrollment has plummeted during the pandemic

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ALBANY — New York’s public schools are on track for the biggest drop in enrollment since 1981, with 66,424 fewer K-12 students — a 2.6% drop — from the 2019-20 school year, according to a report by the Empire Center for Public Policy.

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

“Although public school enrollment in New York has been steadily declining since 2011, the decline in enrollment between this year and last marks a significant acceleration of this trend,” said Empire Center fellow Ian Kingsbury. The Empire Center is a fiscally conservative think tank based in Albany.

A significant number of students are consistently absent from virtual learning, meaning the actual number of students who have functionally left New York public schools is likely higher than the preliminary estimate provided by the Department of Education. state education, the report’s authors said.

The loss of students can be attributed to people leaving the state or current residents transferring their children to private or parochial schools, or home schooling – all factors that have no doubt been influenced by the coronavirus pandemic.


“Preliminary enrollment data indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated school closures have accelerated recent trends of declining enrollment,” Kingsbury added. “While these numbers are historic, they likely fail to capture the true number of students who have functionally left New York’s public education system.”

Registration changes varied by county and region. The decline was more pronounced in the southern part, which recorded a 3.9% reduction in enrollment compared to last year, and in the north of the country, which lost 3.4% of its enrollment in the public schools. Overall, enrollment losses were greater in the upstate than in the downstate.

In the Capital Region, Schoharie and Columbia counties have seen the steepest declines, each losing about 5% of their public school population this year. Rensselaer County recorded a decline of approximately 3.1% from the previous year. Schools in Schenectady and Saratoga counties saw enrollment decline just over 2%. Districts in Albany County saw a 1.1% decline from the previous school year.

The evolution of enrollments varied considerably according to the economic situation of the student. Enrollment among students classified as economically disadvantaged fell by 3.9%. However, among students not classified as economically disadvantaged, enrollment increased by 2.9%.

There have also been substantial changes in enrollment by type of school. Enrollment in charter schools increased by 7.4%, while enrollment in traditional public schools decreased by 3.2%.

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