61,000 no-show kindergarteners fuel steep drop in CA public school enrollment

California
A kindergarten teacher collects crayons from students at Lupine Hill Elementary School in Calabasas last November. A steep drop this year in California K-12 school enrollment stems in part from 61,000 missing kindergarteners.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A kindergarten teacher collects crayons from students at Lupine Hill Elementary School in Calabasas last November. A steep drop this year in California K-12 school enrollment stems in part from 61,000 missing kindergarteners.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The pandemic has intensified a multiyear trend of dwindling public school student enrollment statewide, causing a steep drop this year with more than a third of the decline stemming from 61,000 no-show kindergarteners.

Statewide, net enrollment in K-12 publicly funded schools in California fell by almost 3%, or 160,000 students in 2020-21, the largest drop in 20 years, according to annual data released Thursday by the California Department of Education. The drop takes into account an increase of 22,542 students attending charter schools, which enroll about one in nine students in California.

The falling numbers were spread across the state, with the four largest districts accounting for about a sixth of the decline in enrollment. Los Angeles Unified enrollment fell by 20,841 (4.76%), Long Beach by 2,003 (2.8%), San Diego by 4,270 (4.2%) and Fresno by 909 (1.3%). In the Bay Area, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties both lost more than 3% and Marin fell by 4.7%.

There are some big variations among the state’s 2,291 districts and charter schools. Excluding county offices of education, 83% of traditional districts saw a decline in overall enrollment, compared with only 48% of charter schools.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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