Parents and conservatives were right, while public school officials, teachers’ unions, and politicians were wrong: In-person school instruction is more valuable and safer than shutting down schools during a pandemic.
The data is in and it shows that parents voted with their feet: They chose to not enroll in public schools because of the fear-based and irrational school shutdown policies pushed by the Left during the coronavirus pandemic.
Data collected by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) demonstrated that public schools saw significant declines in enrollment during the pandemic. Although some saw an uptick in enrollment when the pandemic waned, others did not.
AEI said that districts that had more in-person classes saw a greater bounce in enrollment, compared to districts that had fewer in-person classes and relied more on virtual, remote, or online classes. It showed that parents know the needs of their children better than the politicians or teachers’ unions, which were strongly in favor of shuttering schools to conduct online classes.
Overall, student enrollment decreased by a paltry 0.2%. But, a closer look at the data showed that remote-only districts lost about 3.2% of students from 2020-2021 and 4.4% from 2020-2022.
The schools which had more in-person classes saw a 2% decrease in 2021 and their two-year average was a 1.1% decline.
Districts which were in between on in-person and remote classes lost 2.7% enrollment in a year and 2.3% over the same two-year period.
For example, New York City’s public school system saw K-12 enrollment decline of 9.5% over two years. Los Angeles and Philadelphia suffered a 8.1% decline in student enrollment in the same time period, while Chicago had a 6.5% decline in enrollment.
By comparison, Florida did better with a relatively-flat enrollment rate. Duval County, near Jacksonville, lost 0.2% of students while Orange County suffered a 2.7% drop.
Because of the enrollment fluctuations, some school districts may see budget shortfalls because state and federal funding is directly tied to student enrollment data.
But one official disputed the trend of faltering student enrollment. Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, predicted that enrollment will come back as life normalizes. He also was concerned about the children who fell between the cracks of the education system because they did not enroll in any type of school, whether it be public or private.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten blamed homeschooling for the enrollment declines, but said that it will go back to normal once the pandemic lets up. It sounds ironic coming from Weingarten considering that she was an advocate to close schools while noting her dismay about plummeting school enrollment figures.