Following a decade of enrollment declines in Chicago Public Schools, Florida’s Miami-Dade County Public Schools has overtaken the Windy City as the nation’s third-largest school system.
CPS’ enrollment fell to 322,106 students attending its public schools — 8,305 fewer than last year, and down from 404,243 in 2011-12, according to data released by the Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday. The total enrollment for 2022-23 is a 5.4% decrease from 2020-21, said district CEO Pedro Martinez during a Sept. 28 school board meeting.
Despite changes in enrollment over the years, ethnicity rates have mostly stayed the same. Declines varied significantly, however, across all grade levels. While high school enrollment remained relatively stable and elementary enrollment dipped, pre-K enrollment is up more than 6% this school year and jumped 42% since 2021.
Chicago's enrollment declines reflect a challenge faced by many districts post-pandemic. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public schools as a whole experienced a 3% drop in enrollment in 2020-21.
Mississippi and Vermont had the largest declines at 5%, according to the NCES analysis, with Washington, New Mexico, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Maine trailing not far behind at 4% or more. Illinois did not submit data in that count.
"Our enrollment numbers reflect many changes, including declining birth rates," Martinez said during the school board meeting. "But they also present us with an opportunity to review our practices and to ensure we're providing the best programming and services to our students."
Public school experts have repeatedly warned that district leaders should employ various tactics to draw students back in, including offering personalized learning, hybrid or remote learning options, nontraditional schedules, and other student-centered approaches.
Multiple public education experts who have tracked enrollment trends, however, suggest public school enrollment will eventually bounce back.
Meanwhile, staffing levels are at an all-time-high in public schools even as schools lose students. Georgetown University's Edunomics Lab, an education finance research center, expects that trend to continue into this school year.