Aug 15, 2022 - Politics

Public school enrollment declined by thousands since pandemic

Source: California Department of Education

Enrollment at San Francisco public schools has decreased by thousands since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details: The San Francisco Unified School District’s enrollment for the 2021-2022 school year decreased by 3,574 students, or 6.8%, from the 2019-2020 school year.

Why it matters: California uses average daily attendance metrics to determine how much funding the state will give to public school districts. Fewer students enrolled means SFUSD will receive less money.

  • The district's losses over the years could negatively impact it in the future. On average, public school districts in California receive about $10,000 per student from the state.
  • SFUSD's enrollment decline from 2019 would have resulted in a loss of about $35.8 million. However, the state allowed school districts to budget for the upcoming school year based on attendance from the 2019-2020 school year due to the impact of COVID-19.

What they're saying: Jenny Lam, president of the San Francisco Board of Education, said the adopted $1.1 billion budget in June "ensures a positive outlook for the next three years."

  • Lam added: "As we continue to address our ongoing structural deficit, we are committed to making decisions that support our students, their learning and well-being and to move towards stronger financial footing in the long term."

Zoom out: Last school year, student enrollment in California public schools declined by 1.8% from the 2020-2021 school year.

Between the lines: SFUSD enrollment has been on the decline for nearly a decade, but COVID-19 has exacerbated the trend, with some families opting to leave the city or send their children to private schools.

Of note: The school district has been mired in controversy since 2020, ultimately resulting in the recall of three school board members. The latest drama involves school board member Ann Hsu.

  • In July, Hsu made "anti-Black and racist" remarks about how it's difficult to educate Black and Latino students because of their "unstable family environments" and "lack of parental encouragement to focus on ... or value learning." The school district is 6% Black and 30% Latino.
  • Earlier this month, the school board voted to strongly reprimand Hsu for her comments. However, fellow board member Mark Sanchez told Axios the school board needs to send the message that Hsu is not "fit to be serving our schools."

What's next: The school year kicks off on Wednesday, but the school district will take an enrollment census count in October.

  • SFUSD received a similar number of applications for the upcoming school year compared to last year, indicating enrollment numbers won't dramatically change.
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