Public schools

Kindergartners Abandoning Public School in Fall 2021, Too

A shocking 12 percent enrollment drop in New York City points to possible long-term structural impacts of the pandemic.

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"We're proud to show the nation what is possible in terms of safely educating our one million students," New York City Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter tweeted Wednesday after meeting with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Porter may need to refresh her math.

The nation's largest school district announced Thursday that kindergarten applications for fall 2021 were down a whopping 12 percent over last year, after having dropped 9 percent the year before. Though the city expects families to keep trickling in after the filing deadline, it's clear that the pandemic enrollment hit—which this school year cut overall K-12 participation down 4 percent, to 960,000—will not be a one-year phenomenon. Early learners are abandoning public schools, and not just in New York.

We already knew that the 2020–21 year was a wipeout for public school kindergarten enrollment nationwide—down 16 percent, according to an NPR survey of 100 districts last October. Hard numbers are devilishly hard to pin down, varying from state to state (as do kindergarten attendance requirements), but the rough estimate is that about one-third of overall K-12 decline this year (which itself has been estimated at between 2 percent and 5 percent) is attributable to kindergarten alone.

Where have all the 5-year-olds gone? Not Catholic schools, which despite being much more likely to be open five days a week saw their biggest single-year drop (6.4 percent) in a half-century, concentrated most heavily at the pre-K and kindergarten levels. Overall private school numbers, however, appear to be slightly higher.

About the only unambiguous growth categories in the entire field of minor education are learning "pods" (ad hoc groups of parents pooling their efforts either full or part time, to fill in the gaps left by school closures), and homeschooling. That latter category is absolutely exploding—up from 3.3 percent before the pandemic, to 5.4 percent in the spring of 2020, to 11.1 percent last fall, according to the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey, which takes care to distinguish between genuine D.I.Y. education and remote-learning hell.

The tantalizing question raised by New York City's fall application numbers against the backdrop of the homeschooling spike is: Has the pandemic fundamentally altered the public's appetite for public education? Bruno V. Manno, senior adviser for the Walton Family Foundation's K-12 Education Program, thinks so.

"The result of the Covid-19 shock dynamic in K-12 is a more pluralistic education system, one that's being redefined to include more options from more providers for more families and students," Manno wrote for Education Next last month. "Some significant number of parents and students will return to some version of the 'old normal.' But some won't. Some have exited, permanently. So the long-term effect is a question of magnitude."

The shift is already having a direct impact on per-student-based school budgets and staffing, even as the Biden administration hurriedly shovels the better half of $200 billion in federal bailout money out the door. Gilbert Public Schools in Arizona laid off 152 employees last month. Hillsborough County, Florida, the country's eighth largest school district, will soon ax 1,000 more employees after already losing 2,000 during the pandemic. Some state lawmakers are trying to tie the Biden bucks to job protection, but even with the record levels of federal funding, the basic math of K-12 funding is that with declining enrollment comes a declining number of jobs.

How much can we pin enrollment decline on districts and states being slow to fully reopen their schools? It's too early to say, just as it's premature to assume that the New York City model will play out in similar numbers elsewhere.

But this much we know: After 13 months of the pandemic, public school K-12 enrollment is down all over the country, private school enrollment is flat or slightly up, and homeschooling has shot through the roof. This spring is the first time millions of parents will have truly been able to make a premeditated, non-panicky decision about the best schooling options for their kids. If such deliberation continues to produce measurable exit from government-run institutions, the basic structure of American education will change in profound ways.

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  1. the basic structure of American education will change in profound ways.

    Ah, but will the basic *quality*?

    1. can it be worse?

      1. Trick question?

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      2. That sounds like a challenge!

        /AFT President Randi Weingarten

        1. about fucking time.

    2. Considering the rate at which public schools churn out students that are incredibly adept at picking up on and internalizing all the woke nonsense they learn in college while simultaneously erasing their ability to have any skepticism towards people in power with a (D) next to their name, I would say the “quality” is precisely where our overlords want it to be.

      1. I don’t really mind if someone is a flaming liberal, progressive, or woke, if they can think for themselves. I have friends in that category. I disagree with them politically, but they can actually function without someone telling them what to think.

        But there definitely is a huge swath of them content with shutting their brains off and just thinking what they are told to think. I’ve got zero respect for them.

        Ditto for the non-thinkers on the Right. I may disagree with you about a border wall, but if you can articulate why you’re in favor of one without resorting to cheap memes, I can still respect you.

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    4. “If such deliberation continues to produce measurable exit from government-run institutions, the basic structure of American education will change in profound ways.”

      And the poor minorities in Democrat run urban centers, like NYC, will be hardest hit as their schools lose funding, the tax paying base moves to safer and more prosperous areas, crime rises, and business/jobs leave. Especially service industry jobs that allow middle income people to thrive in higher income areas like NYC. All of which are accelerating due to the pandemic and many democrat mayor’s and governors dictator like destructions of their cities with lock downs.

      This is how you know democrats don’t actually care about minorities. Their policies almost always end up harming them.

      1. Alternately:
        And the poor minorities in Democrat run urban centers, like NYC, will benefit most as alternatives gain funding and critical mass, creating real options for the children of those poor minorities to escape the failed public schools. Private schools and homeschooling will no longer be just a luxury for the rich.

        Note that the fact that people who can afford to are pulling their kids out of public schools does not mean that they are leaving the area. If allowed to escape the tyranny of the teachers’ unions, I think many folks will stay where they are.

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  2. What would attorney and AFT leader Randi Weingarten say to this?

    How dare the Jews abandoned the “non owning class” that is the teachers union bread and butter?

  3. Back in my day, kindergarten was totally option. Parents sent their kids anyway, but schooling didn’t really kick in until first grade. Public schools anyway.

    I didn’t learn to read in my kindergarten. I learned to play with paste and say my ABCs. Which was pointless. What does the kindergartner care what order the letters go in when the letters have no meaning?
    Anyway, “preschool” is not the expected requirement. Which is crazy.

    Now kindergartners SHOULD be learning to read! That they don’t is just another indictment against public schools. Montessori kindergartens can do it, with the same teacher to student ratio. The whole purpose of public school kindergartens seems to be how to learn to sit still and learn how to tattle.

    1. Professor Farnsworth learned to read while he was still in diapers, at the age of 7

    2. read what? all the books are on fire.

    3. Montessori kindergartens can do it, with the same teacher to student ratio. The whole purpose of public school kindergartens seems to be how to learn to sit still and learn how to tattle.

      No reason at all why ‘kindergartens’ cannot be composed of all sorts of different classrooms offering different curricula/approaches. The building/facility is not the same thing as curriculum/teaching. And with something like Montessori – having those as one of the classroom options rather than separate schools makes it much easier for that to either expand/contract based on real demand from parents/students.

    4. Kindergarten provides social skills. We’re getting first graders that act like kindergartners. Maybe they catch up, I don’t know.

  4. A shocking 12 percent enrollment drop in New York City points to possible long-term structural impacts of the pandemic.

    In the minds of progressives, this means they need to raise taxes and get a federal bailout.

    That’s another reason why progressives are America’s most horrible people.

  5. Or families just moved out of NYC.

      1. You know it’s bad when even Baltimore is more attractive than NYC.

        1. NY’rs have been sending their spawn down here for years to take advantage of our superior colleges – Towson, Johns Hopkins, Loyola. What’s new?

          1. Superior football team too.

            But seriously, we have enough problems without all those assholes moving down here with their Yankees attire, syphilis, bed bugs, shitty attitudes, ignorant accents, and gross eating habits.

    1. Did you miss the part about this being a nationwide movement? This is not about the exodus of New Yorkers from the city.

      1. “The shift is already having a direct impact on per-student-based school budgets and staffing, even as the Biden administration hurriedly shovels the better half of $200 billion in federal bailout money out the door. Gilbert Public Schools in Arizona laid off 152 employees last month. Hillsborough County, Florida, the country’s eighth largest school district, will soon ax 1,000 more employees after already losing 2,000 during the pandemic. Some state lawmakers are trying to tie the Biden bucks to job protection, but even with the record levels of federal funding, the basic math of K-12 funding is that with declining enrollment comes a declining number of jobs.

        —–Matt Welch

        It isn’t just a national push, and it isn’t just about layoffs in education. Hundreds of thousands more city, county, and state employees all over the country would have lost their jobs to the pandemic and the lockdowns–if it weren’t for the bailout–and not just in public education.

        And that is what it looks like when the government gets smaller. If Trump had been reelected, and there weren’t any bailout of state and local government, it would have been the most fundamentally libertarian event in our lifetimes–millions of government employees laid off as the government gets smaller. That’s the libertarian dream come true.

        The fundamental principle is that there will never be a time when the government is so flush with cash that it decides to cut spending. Over the long term, spending is only cut when the government has no other choice. If we had reelected President Trump, there would have been no bailout, and state and local governments from New York to California would have had no choice but to cut spending.

        Boy, did we ever blow that opportunity!

        1. That assumes Trump wouldn’t have compromised for full funding for the border wall and the infrastructure package he wanted. And as evidence, I submit his continued signing of omnibus bills when he promised to never sign one again after the first one – not exactly the actions of one whose goal is to starve the beast.

          But we’ll never know.

  6. I pulled my kindergartner out of public school for private school. And, with how our district handled things we are keeping him in private school as long as possible.

  7. We pulled our kids for private school, including our 2021 kindergartener. Even if we were stuck with public school, we probably would have kept the kindergartener in daycare for another year, just so he wouldn’t have to deal with residual ridiculousness from this past school year.

  8. My suburban district where my kids attended has been losing enrollment for years..as the socialists in NY have destroyed the private sector…graduating classes have gone from 600 plus to under 400 in less than 10 years yet they are always building new additions and adding staff (admin seems to be the most likely all making over 100K) and property taxes keep going up. I do hope millennial parents leave the monopoly system. Don’t mind funding a few K per year for public schools but not 19K as I do today. Give each parent a stipend and they can find their kid’s own education. Works for me. Perhaps we can also close down dept of education and schools of education..they are waste of money. I’d rather have my kids tought by someone with a real degree not a BA in “education”

  9. I’ve had multiple children in school during this debacle. One graduated, being basically handed his diploma having met few of the graduation requirements. Our school shutdowns began some of the first in the nation. Our high school teachers balked for 3 weeks before even sending emails to students, and 5 weeks before remote instruction started, with no contingencies for tech classes, which our student spent 80% of their day. Conversely, our gradeschooler’s teacher had 3 weeks worth of assignments, supplies, books, workbooks, and laptops ready on the last day of school before the lockdown, and then the same for the rest of the school year after that 3 weeks. Our district ended up offering a virtual academy through K12 Stride, an online academy tailored towards homeschoolers. We have a local school district teacher essentially serving as a reporting mechanism to the state, and the curriculum is a district selected, self paced ala carte from the Stride curriculum offerings, with the electives and specialties chosen by us. Parents serve as “learning coaches”, being the primary instructors with the supplied books and workbooks. It’s been awesome for our now 2 grade schooolers. Our district is being very forward thinking since a state supreme court ruling held that funding education is a state responsibility, and that funding is tied to enrolled student numbers. They’re even allowing all of the current students to out-of-district transfer if we move out of the district. We had been considering home school for a while, but the lockdowns forced us into the experiment. It’s changed our life plans considerably for the better, with a more enriched life for our kids. Not all public schools or districts did it bad.

    1. Are you getting paid for doing the public schools job?

  10. few want to raise kids amidst post-apocalyptic crime rates, collapsing services, confiscatory tax rates, and totalitarian restrictions

    tides of assortative migration leaving behind deep blue urban backwaters

  11. Good! Now how to get politicians to stop STEALING everyone’s labors like a crook on crack.

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  13. I just can’t help feeling like Matt Welch wouldn’t give two shits about this if his own kids didn’t attend a public school.

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