California · Education

Calif. public school enrollment sinks below 6mil kids

For the first time since the start of the century, California has fewer than 6 million students attending public schools.

According to new data released by the California Department of Education, enrollment in public schools continues to drop more quickly than it did before the pandemic, stirring fears of more budget cuts and long-term financial instability for schools. 

Among key takeaways from the newly released data:

  • Statewide enrollment has dropped by more than 110,000 students to 5,892,240 during the current school year, a 1.8% dip from last year but less steep than the 2.6% decline during the first year of the pandemic.
  • Charter school enrollment also is down for the first time since at least 2014.
  • Kindergarten enrollment is up, though nowhere near pre-pandemic levels.
  • And 9,000 more students are enrolled in private schools, a 1.7% increase, but that doesn’t explain much of the exodus from public schools.

For the better part of a decade, public school enrollment was in steady decline in California mostly due to a lack of affordable housing, education officials across the state said.

When the pandemic reached California, early job losses collided with that trend, making the decline worse.

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Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.