A task force to dig deeper into the reasons for declining school enrollment in California has been created by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.
The drop in enrollment is being felt across the country. In California K-12 schools had 110,000 fewer students this school year than the previous year, a decrease of 1.8%. In 2020-21, student enrollment fell by 2.6%.
Since California schools are funded largely by average daily student attendance, a loss in enrollment can mean less money to pay district salaries and other bills.
The task force will analyze the data, study trends and try to determine why students are leaving certain districts and where they are going. It will also examine data on birth rates, immigration and housing costs to see their impact on enrollment, according to a press release from the California Department of Education.
Thurmond is also sponsoring or supporting legislation that would change the funding structure of schools so that they are not so reliant on average daily attendance for funding.
“I am committed to meeting the needs of all of our schools and school districts, and while each school and community has its own history and conditions, declining enrollment is something we face together,” said Thurmond. “For many communities this is not a new challenge, but after two years of the pandemic the impacts feel magnified and the future looks daunting. I want this working group to intend to understand the why of the declines and sharing local ideas and efforts that we could consider scaling to make a real difference.
Task force chairs include Lande Ajose of the Public Policy Institute of California; Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers; Edgar Zazueta, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators; and Tatiana Davenport, executive director of the California Association of School Business Officials.