California's TK-12 public school enrollment dips again

The California Department of Education reports a less than 1% decline in the number of students attending public schools in 2022-23

Continuing a years-long trend, fewer students are enrolled in California’s TK-12 public schools this school year compared to the previous year, according to data released this week by the California Department of Education.

The decrease was smaller than in recent years, but did not reflect a rebound to pre-pandemic enrollment levels.

Preliminary figures for the current 2022-23 school year show California has 5,852,544 students enrolled in schools in the state. That’s a drop of 39,696 students from the previous year representing a .67% decrease.

In 2021-22, the state recorded a decline of 1.84% in student enrollment which represented a loss of around 110,000 students. In 2020-21, when the Covid-19 pandemic first caused disruptions to schools, the state saw a drop of about 160,000 students.

The latest numbers are based on a point-in-time count of students taken on October 5, 2022. It represents more than 900 school districts, 1,300 charter schools and 58 county offices of education.

Zoom into Orange County and enrollment dipped by 7,480 students countywide – from 448,729 students in 2021-22 down to 441,249 this school year. (See a list of 2022-23 enrollment data for each Orange County district from the California Department of Education here.)

Kindergarten enrollment did rise by nearly 2,500 students this year in O.C., as the Orange County Department of Education Newsroom noted.

According to the CDE, that trend was mirrored statewide. Kindergarten, seventh, and eleventh grades saw more students while the largest decreases in statewide public school enrollment were in second, eighth, and tenth grades.

While the number of students attending public school is declining, there’s been a marked jump in the number of homeless students attending California’s schools.

“The number of students experiencing homelessness increased by 9%, about 16,000, to a total of approximately 187,000 kids,” CalMatters reported.

California funds public education based on the number of kids attending schools.  Fewer students means less money for districts.

In Orange County, the Ocean View School District is currently grappling with declining enrollment at its 14 schools located in Huntington Beach, Midway City, Fountain Valley and Westminster.

The district’s ten elementary and four middle schools  have roughly 6,800 students enrolled right now. That’s a drop of 2,600 students from ten years ago, according to  the Orange County Register.

In February, district staff floated a proposal to consolidate and shutter some of its campuses which was  met with resistance from parents and families.

The OVSD is now in the process of creating a Superintendent’s Schools Task Force to address the issue.

“The Task Force will work together to develop a range of future options for the Board of Trustees to consider as it determines how to manage the District’s ongoing declining enrollment and low school(s) enrollment,” wrote OVSD Superintendent Michael Conroy on the OVSD website.

Where did California's 40,000 students go? It’s not exactly clear. But it could be that they moved out of state.

“Between July 2021 and July 2022, 343,000 people migrated from the state, the largest exodus of any state except for New York. But families have no obligation to report their departure to the school district or the state,” as  EdSource reported.

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