Public school districts are seeing a drop in enrollment compared to last year, at least part of which is due to parents, frustrated with the ineffectiveness of remote learning, switching their kids from public to private schools.
Voxitatis reported a few weeks after the 2020-21 school year got underway that attendance was off and speculated that some of the missing students may be slipping through the cracks of remote learning.
Later in September, The Baltimore Sun reported that although exact numbers for Maryland wouldn’t be known for a while, some school districts were seeing a 3 or 4 percent reduction in enrollment.
And because each student who is in attendance by September 30 represents thousands of dollars, school districts are naturally concerned about the effect the drop in enrollment will have on their budgets.
“What is clear is that this problem must be addressed quickly,” the Sun quoted Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson as saying. “The impact of doing nothing will be a practical cut of upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars to the state’s public schools.”
Well, Mr Ferguson, we can’t legislate where parents send their kids. Remote learning has turned out to be a catastrophe for the public schools, not only in Maryland but everywhere.
The Boston Globe reported that enrollment in the public schools in Massachusetts, which has historically been pretty stable, is down by about 3 percent this year. In North Carolina, it’s down by about 4 percent, and in Missouri and Wisconsin by about 3 percent. In Alaska, the Anchorage School District saw a 9 percent drop in enrollment and anticipates a $15.2 million loss in funding.
Public school enrollment in Utah hasn’t fallen in any year since 2000, but it did this year—by 4 percent in kindergarten. Although remote learning fails students at every level, kindergarten is just a mess. Kids can’t learn to read online.
As states make this data public, the digital divide is also more noticeable, notably in Allegany County, Maryland, and other rural areas where the population size doesn’t justify corporate expenditures on high-speed broadband. Maryland legislators are hoping to close the digital divide, at some point, but that doesn’t affect enrollment this year. And without question, a certain percentage of the enrollment decline will persist beyond the pandemic.
We can only hope that those students aren’t just dropping out of school altogether and that their parents and teachers at private and parochial schools, where available, are keeping them connected.