Public school enrollment continues to decline in New Mexico


NEW MEXICO (AP) – Home schooling nearly doubled in New Mexico last year as thousands of parents pulled out of virtual learning programs offered in public schools. The unprecedented defection from the public school system is straining school budgets, which are rooted in student enrollment.

Parents who have the time and patience to attend homeschool said they liked the flexibility of homeschooling and learned to give their children a more suitable education. “We had no interest in doing a virtual apprenticeship at a public or charter school,” said Jennifer Fischer, 43, who moved with her partner and two sons from Los Angeles to Albuquerque during the pandemic in August.

Raised by teachers and experienced in teaching media, the filmmaker couple weren’t intimidated by the prospect of teaching their boys in fourth and fifth grades.

For others, there was a learning curve. “At first it was a little difficult trying to cut down on the schedule and the routine,” said Albuquerque housewife Cynthia Sanchez, who home-schooled her four children, ages kindergarten to preschool. the seventh year.

Both parents joined the Homeschool Homies Facebook group last summer to see what other homeschool families were doing. They weren’t alone. “I went from, you know, maybe 10 requests a week to maybe 25-30 requests a day, said Sarah Candelaria, 35, who ran Homeschool Homies and a few other school-based groups. -House.

She repeatedly answered the same questions: “Which program should we use?” Do we have to register with the State? The number of children registered with the state as homeschooled has nearly doubled from around 8,800 before the pandemic to around 15,400 this past school year, according to data from the Department of Public Education. Kindergarten to Grade 12 enrollment was already declining by about 1.1% each year after a decade of declining births and more people of reproductive age leaving the state than settling there.

Home schooling data validates a census survey that found home schooling has doubled in New Mexico and the United States

Since federal and state education funding is tied to student enrollment, a withdrawal from public school systems will affect budgets. In Albuquerque public schools, authorities are predicting a loss of up to $ 53 million due to declining enrollment.

Home schooling has increased in all New Mexico school districts except the smallest, according to additional home schooling data obtained by The Associated Press in a public registration application.

Statewide, the increase in the number of home students accounts for more than half of the 4% drop in public school enrollment in New Mexico last year, according to an analysis by the AP. Thousands of students have left the system by transferring to a private school. An unknown number came out of the state.

Federal pandemic aid increases school budgets for the next two years. But in the long run, registrations are down.

Candelaria, the administrator of the Facebook group, said many parents will stick to home schooling even if the pandemic subsides. Sanchez is one of them. She said her children learned more at home than in public school. “They didn’t have time to deal with them to make sure they understood the material before moving forward,” Sanchez said. “I had time to devote to the children.

Her two daughters have asked to go back to school this year so they can be surrounded by friends. She made a compromise with them by allowing them to practice group sports.

Fischer, the filmmaker, said her family was ready to send the children back to public school this year “assuming there are no variations or an increase in the number.”

But she hopes school districts draw on lessons from the pandemic to offer more student-friendly learning, and more programs where students attend three days a week and homeschool the other two days, Fischer said. . “We can expand and say that even a public system needs to be more customizable and meet the needs of different learners,” she said.

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