What Enrollment Trends Can Tell Us About School Choice
Around this time last year, you probably saw the news about Louisiana public school enrollment dropping by just over 2 percent or nearly 17,000 students since the pandemic began. Following weeks of school closures in 2020 and a chaotic 2020-2021 school year that overwhelmed and frustrated students, parents, and educators alike, it was no surprise.
Throughout the pandemic, state education officials have continued to report public school enrollment figures – there are two official “counts” each year, in October and in February – and have offered commentary on trends and national comparisons. Just recently, the state Department of Education released updated counts from last fall, showing that public school enrollment has dropped by nearly 30,000 students since the pandemic began, from 719,812 down to 690,092.
Few have asked the natural follow-up questions, which are (1) which students left, and (2) where did they go? While we don’t have data on all of these students and questions remain, a closer examination of enrollment reports across multiple school settings may provide some insight or at least help us begin to answer these questions going forward.
Source: Louisiana Department of Education
Another interesting stat is that, as public school enrollment has declined, the percentage of students from low-income households has increased, from 69.07 percent to 71.16 percent. That’s not a huge increase, but it underscores the fact that not all families have the ability or the means to select another educational option when their kid’s needs aren’t being met. Many families who would like to homeschool or have their child attend a private school simply can’t afford to do so.
As we highlighted in this article last summer, parent “agency” doesn’t exist for all. And while Louisiana does offer a portfolio of school choices, including several publicly funded choices, they are limited and many have long waitlists. It’s time to change that, and we hope to see new school choice opportunities in Louisiana’s future. It’s time to give all of Louisiana’s kids access to a school where they can thrive.