May 21, 2024 - Technology

Cities' public school conundrum

A bar chart showing the change in U.S. public school enrollment and number of schools between the 2019-2020 and 2022-2023 school years. Enrollment is down in urban, suburban, and town areas, and up in rural ones. The number of schools has decreased in urban and town areas, and is up slightly in suburban and rural ones.
Reproduced from WSJ via the Brookings Institution; Note: Excludes virtual schools, alternative schools and adult centers; Chart: Axios Visuals

Large U.S. cities are grappling with too many underpopulated public schools, forcing districts to make difficult decisions on closures.

Why it matters: Losing students can result in funding cuts for classes, extracurriculars or sports.

The big picture: Enrollment at urban public schools dropped more than 5% nationally from the 2019 to 2022 academic years, per the Brookings Institution, amounting to more than 84,000 students.

  • In that same period, the number of urban schools decreased by 0.3%, or 68 schools.

Between the lines: Cities' populations are declining as birth rates decrease and residents leave in search of cheaper living.

  • Parents have also sought more non-public school options for their kids, experts tell Axios.

Threat level: Schools with more students of color and higher poverty levels have been more likely to close, per the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice.

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