Sofoklis Goulas

Economist

Sofoklis Goulas

Economist

Blog Post

Breaking down enrollment declines in public schools

Breaking down enrollment declines in public schools

The newly released enrollment data from the National Center on Education Statistics for the 2022–23 school year point to moderate enrollment gains for traditional public schools. The recent enrollment gains though are smaller than the cumulative enrollment losses since 2019–20 and are not uniform. This paper takes stock of enrollment losses today by comparing the distribution of changes in public school enrollment since the COVID-19 pandemic to the distribution of pre-pandemic changes across the nation. Roughly 59, 69, and 69 percent of small, medium-sized, and large schools, respectively, saw their enrollment decline between 2019–20 and 2022–23. One third of small, medium-sized, and large schools with enrollment declines lost 26, 54, and 96 students or more, respectively (i.e., top third). The share of schools experiencing such declines after COVID-19 is larger than what would be expected based on historical variation for medium-sized and large schools. Urban schools and middle schools are disproportionately represented among schools with enrollment losses in the top third.