Districts that spent most of the 2020-21 school year in remote learning face the largest enrollment declines and are more likely to see revenue decreases due to those shrinking enrollments, according to a report from the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank.
Large school systems of 25,000 or more students that switched to mostly remote learning during the 2020-21 school year could stand to lose $26 million, for example, based on median pre-pandemic nonlocal annual revenues.
Even if a 25,000-plus student school district held mostly in-person classes, the median loss of revenue is expected to be $6.4 million. That's higher than school systems with 15,000 or fewer students that went remote.
Some 82% of districts have enrollment declines and are expected to face revenue decreases, the July 27 report said.
"These revenue effects are dire and (we can hope) may not hold. In the short term, we are already seeing evidence of them," said the report, which called the COVID-19 pandemic the "largest disruption to public schools in American history."
AEI reviewed enrollment data from 48 states and the District of Columbia for this report. Data was unavailable for Kentucky and Tennessee. Revenue data used in the report came from the National Center for Education Statistics' Common Core of Data for the 2018-19 school year and only approximate fiscal impacts, the report said.
Other trends highlighted in the report include:
- Enrollment fell overall by nearly 3% between 2020 and 2022, while just five states saw net gains. That enrollment loss equaled 1.3 million students.
- The three states experiencing the largest drops — New York, Oregon and Mississippi — lost more than one in 20 students between 2020 and 2022.
- Enrollments rebounded faster at districts that returned more quickly to in-person learning. Districts that stayed remote the longest suffered a net enrollment decline of 4.4% since the start of the pandemic. Districts that were mostly in-person recovered about 1% of their enrollment in the second year, declining 1.2% overall.