Thursday, June 26, 2008

CT Public School Enrollments Are Declining So Why Are We Building More Schools?

The New Haven Register presented a report that claims that public school enrollments in CT are declining.

There are some interesting observations in this report and the bottom line is that demographers are reporting that their projections show a long decline in the number of schoolchildren in the state, which should in turn signal a related drop in need for expanded facilities.

Here are some of the highlights of that report:

- Baby boomers have failed to replace themselves, and the same is expected of the "echo-boom,"

- Connecticut apparently has some of the lowest fertility rates in the country

- The Connecticut State Data Center said the decline started last year, and by 2020, they projected it would have dropped 17 percent from a high of 523,100 in the 2003-04 school year.

- Between 2006-07 and the just completed school year, total public school population for the state was down about 4,000 in grades 1 through 12, according to the data center report; a 90,800 student loss is projected by 2020 for a total school population of 432,300 students.

- The enrollment high of 523,100 in 2003-04 is unlikely to return

Orlando Rodriguez, demographer and manager of the data center said:
"We have been expecting this downward enrollment trend to begin. The leading edge of baby boomers are approaching retirement and the trailing edge of their children have aged beyond K to 12 schooling"
Furthermore this leads to an interesting revelation regarding projections and school construction.
The researchers also cite a separate study by state auditors that points to a "systemic overstatement in enrollment projections" used to justify new school facilities. The data center researchers were surprised the five districts with the largest declines were all in cities: Bridgeport, New Haven, West Haven, East Hartford and New Britain.

This contradicts projections for total population increases in the cities, they said. The report suggests the expected drop in students may reflect parents opting for magnet schools, charter schools or private schools or an increase in dropouts.
Funny, they haven't mentioned that many more families are also choosing to homeschool! More people are homeschooling their children and our numbers continue to increase.

We are having less kids in general and more kids are taking advantage of other educational options. It is good to see more educational options, and the competition might just force government schools to do something to improve their product.

This projected decline in enrollment is probably one reason we are seeing a push to bring pre-k education into the public school system and to include pre-k facilities into public schools. Education unions have to do something to protect jobs and keep the money flowing into education despite this decline, so they hope to expand the number of grades to make up for the lost numbers.

Keep an eye on your own school budgets and you might see that government school enrollments are declining, but their budgets keeps escalating. In some school districts like mine (West Hartford) we have noticed that lower enrollments are being back filled with kids from the urban areas. This coming year alone, we are bringing in 91 students from Project Choice, and we are looking to build a magnet elementary school to accompany a new science center in Elmwood which has the purpose to satisfy the Sheff v. O'Neill lawsuit settlement.

The taxpayers of course will be funding Magnet schools in the suburbs and their enrollments may show a different story from the CT Data Center report only because the kids are being redistributed. One must keep in mind though that the magnet and charter school choice is still government funded schooling.