Feb 8, 2024 - News

Private-school enrollment rises in San Diego

Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

A larger share of San Diego students attended private school in 2022 than at any other point in recent history, the latest census data show.

Why it matters: Public-school funding is tied to enrollment — more students leaving for private schools means less money for local school districts.

By the numbers: Enrollment in San Diego-area private schools jumped to 14.8% in 2022 — from 10.7% in 2019.

  • San Diego's share of private-school students now exceeds the state's 12.7%, after it was below state level most years since 2010.
  • Private-school enrollment in San Diego exceeded the national average during the 2020-21 school year for the first time since 2010 and now matches the nation's 14.8% share.

The big picture: Declining public-school enrollment is not just a trend in San Diego, but in California and the nation as a whole.

  • San Diego Unified, the county's largest school district, has seen overall enrollment fall from 127,112 in the 2017-18 school year to 115,376 this school year, per the district's official tallies.
  • That decrease could've been bigger: New "universal transitional kindergarten," or public school for all 4-year-olds, gave public-school enrollment a boost for the 2022-23 school year.

What they're saying: Increases in private-school enrollment are not the most significant part of declining public-school numbers, per experts at the Public Policy Institute of California.

  • Instead, the biggest factors are falling birth rates and migration out of California, the institute's Emmanuel Prunty and Julien Lafortune wrote in September.
  • "These population pressures will also affect private schools: They will be competing with public schools for a dwindling pool of school-aged children," they wrote.
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