News & Politics

Blue State Blues: Record Number of Students Flee Nation's Largest Public School Districts

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

This week the three largest public school districts in the U.S. announced that they are in the middle of a massive and continuing problem: record low enrollment numbers.

The New York Times reported that since the fall of 2019 enrollment in New York City’s (NYC) public school system—the nation’s largest district—has dropped by about 50,000 students or 4.5%. The numbers are even worse in the nation’s second-largest public school district, where the Los Angeles Times reported the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) lost a record of more than 27,000 students or 6.0% of its enrollment since 2019. The third-largest district’s numbers are just as bad in Chicago’s public schools (CPS), where WTTW reported enrollment is down nearly 25,000 students or 3.0% over the same time.

What exactly is to blame for the record drop in enrollment across these districts? The districts are quick to blame the COVID-19 pandemic; that’s not the only reason fewer parents want their children to attend these public schools, but you’d never know that to listen to them.

NYC claimed the “drop was likely driven by a number of factors, including parents choosing to home-school their children either temporarily or long-term, families leaving the city during the pandemic and some parents delaying the start of school for their young children altogether.”

Meanwhile, LAUSD’s chief strategy officer Veronica Arreguin blames “the impact of COVID” for the enrollment decline. Arreguin also noted that much of the decline was expected and “in line with many years of dropping enrollment related to lower birth rates, families moving to more affordable areas and other factors.”

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CPS’s CEO Pedro Martinez blamed the enrollment decline on “the COVID-19 pandemic, a drop in the city’s birth rate, and transfers outside of the school district.” But is the pandemic and its lockdowns really all that is driving the decline? While it’s true each of these failing districts was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, ultimately the three do have many other issues in common that the media does not acknowledge because it doesn’t fit The Narrative.

First, even though these districts are located in vastly different areas of the country, each is a large urban school district located in a deep-blue state. Democrat-run deep-blue states and cities come with leftist-driven problems such as increasing crime rates, rampant homelessness, and broken families. This year alone, Chicago has already seen more than 660 homicides leading board president Miguel del Valle to say that many parents are “concerned for the safety of their children and the block they live.”

For LAUSD, the causes of decline are “varied, with economic factors at play — the high cost of living, including gentrification, has pushed families farther from the once-affordable urban core and also from adjacent suburbs.” Limits placed mostly on illegal immigration by President Trump and then by the pandemic have certainly cut the “steady supply of families with young children” that used to funnel freely into LAUSD.

Next, each district is composed of a large minority population. Many students don’t necessarily speak fluent English nor do they have easy access to wi-fi and computers for online classes, making school from home difficult if not impossible for some students. Many students simply dropped out, moved away, or otherwise did not return as the pandemic restrictions eased. Many students and their families were simply unable to afford to live in the high-cost inner cities as their parents lost jobs and housing became scarce during the pandemic.

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Lastly, on the surface, urban parents may not seem to have many issues in common with parents in the suburbs and rural areas of the country, but one issue they all share is wanting what’s best for their children. Each of these districts has imposed the very same woke racist curriculum, draconian mask regulations, and intrusive vaccine mandates that parents all over the country have been fighting against. Many urban parents, especially minority parents, don’t necessarily agree with the radical left’s teaching of Critical Race Theory or “ethnic studies” that portray their children as oppressed victims and white children as oppressors; thus many are choosing charter schools and homeschooling. “Alongside this general decline in enrollment, the last two decades have seen growth in the proportion of students enrolling in charter schools and a relative decline in the proportion of students attending non-charter schools in LAUSD,” Professor John Rogers of UCLA told the Los Angeles Times.

From calling parents “domestic terrorists” to forcing their kids to wear masks and get unwanted vaccines, it’s clear that the left has both disrespected and underestimated parents when it comes to how much parents will put up with when the well-being of their kids is in jeopardy. We need only look at the gubernatorial race in Virginia to see how that’s going for the left. Never ever cross parents.