Public school enrollment dropped in California this year by more than 110,000 students, continuing a five-year trend of dwindling enrollment across the state. 12,600 of those students left charter schools, which saw enrollment dip for the first time in decades.
Enrollment in Oakland Unified School District has trended alongside the rest of the state with declines in both public and charter schools this year.
Parents Face Tough Decisions
The cause of declining enrollment is not easily defined. Families report facing a variety of obstacles to quality education, including school closures and a lack of affordable housing–both issues disproportionately affecting Black and Brown students.
Pandemic-related changes also had an impact on the numbers as families chose to homeschool their children or relocate due to job losses.
FIA parent leader Tunisia Harris cited disappointing interactions with educators as one factor in her choice to move some of her children to non-district schools. She cares for a student with autism, and says she struggled to find a good fit for him in the public-school system. She now helps other families find quality education that meets their needs.
“I’m very passionate about it because neither of my parents got to graduate. By not graduating, that led to struggling. And I don’t want to see that for my children or for other children,” Harris shared in a recent interview.
The Fight for Access Continues
As enrollment numbers continue to drop, the number of issues facing our students and families is on the rise. Fewer students in classrooms means less state funding and spreading resources across many schools. It also has meant scapegoating rather than centering students and looking for ways to use the. enrollment crisis to double down on high-quality programs.
Every Oakland family deserves access to a high-quality school, and we call on policy makers, school and system leaders to listen to families. Families want access to quality schools and we call on policy makers to use the enrollment crisis to bridge the gap in access to quality schools.