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K-12 enrollment projected to decline in the upcoming decade

San Francisco Unified school bus driving in China Town.
Tobias Kleinlercher
/
Wiki Commons
SFUSD bus driving in China Town.

The Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team helps educational agencies identify financial challenges. It says recent drops in classroom enrollment are just the beginning of a projected decade-long decline for California schools.

COVID-19 vaccination mandates and slow population growth are contributing factors. Many parents are disenrolling their children from public school because of vaccination mandates or sending them to private schools. Furthermore, birth rates are at the lowest since the Great Depression and aging rates are steadily increasing.

The California Department of Finance has projected an over 11 percent decline in statewide enrollment in the next decade. That would be a loss of more than 700 thousand students from pre-pandemic times.

Bay Area counties are projected to be among the hardest hit. San Francisco Unified has already lost 3,500 students in the last two years. Oakland Unified is reporting that a third or more of their students have been chronically absent.

For two years, the Legislature shielded districts from revenue losses due to declines in enrollment and disruptions in attendance as schools went in and out of distance learning. School budgets have been funded at pre-pandemic attendance levels so far. But lawmakers said districts should return to collecting daily attendance this year, which would affect the revenue they can collect from the state starting next academic year.

Advisors are telling California schools to prepare for this financial hit, as expected staff reductions and cutting other expenses are bound to come.