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News Update

In the wake of the pandemic, will enrollment bounce back?

Three years after the pandemic shuttered schools, as The 74 reported, data shows that enrollment in the vast majority of the nation’s largest school districts has yet to recover.

Kindergarten counts continue to dwindle in many states — evidence of falling birth rates and a growing array of alternatives luring parents away from traditional public schools. Experts fear those trends, plus a possible recession and the looming demise of federal relief funds, will fuel a perfect storm for education.

The $190 billion in pandemic relief that was provided to schools allowed many districts to make up for the loss of funds tied to falling enrollment and delay deep cuts. Those funds are set to end in 17 months. As budget deficits grow and housing costs push families out of urban centers, education leaders are facing options such as closing schools or laying off staff.

“I’m not a pro-school closure guy. That’s the worst part of school reform,” said Brian Eschbacher, an enrollment consultant and a former Denver Public Schools official, The 74 reported. “But if anyone was holding out hope for a bounce back, we have put that to rest.”