Feb 6, 2024 - News

San Francisco private school enrollment on the rise

Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Enrollment in public schools across California has seen a dramatic decline since the onset of the pandemic, which coincides with a recent rise in private school attendance and homeschooling, new census data shows.

Why it matters: The number of students enrolled in private schools was higher in nearly every state and D.C. in 2022 compared to before the pandemic.

By the numbers: Statewide, 12.7% of students attended private school in 2022, compared to 11.3% in 2019.

  • San Francisco Bay Area private school enrollment also jumped post-COVID, from 18.8% in 2019 to 21% in 2022.

Of note: All states and locals are missing data for the 2020-21 school year.

Zoom in: In the San Francisco Unified School District, enrollment in non-charter public schools declined from 49,204 in the 2021-22 school year to 48,785 in the 2022-23 school year, according to data from the California Department of Education.

Threat level: Drops in public school enrollment contribute to declines in resource availability for schools — i.e., how much money is dedicated per child.

  • California uses average daily attendance metrics to determine how much funding the state will give to public school districts. Fewer students enrolled means less money for SFUSD.

What they're saying: The increase in private school enrollment is not solely responsible for the decline in public school enrollment in California, according to researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California.

  • "Falling birth rates and migration out of California are predominant causes — and demographic trends suggest declines will continue across regions over the coming decade," Emmanuel Prunty and Julien Lafortune, two researchers at PPIC, 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."

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

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