New York City public school enrollment has continued to decline – but not as steeply as in previous years of the pandemic, new data showed Monday.
The preliminary enrollment data showed a decrease from 919,000 students in the city’s public schools last year to 903,000 this year, a 1.8% drop. In the 2021-22 school year, enrollment dropped by 3.8%. In the 2020-21 school year, it dropped by 4.7%, according to data released by the Department of Education.
“Like districts and schools across the country, our enrollment has been impacted by fluctuations resulting from the pandemic as well as long-term trends in birth rates,” First Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg said in a press release.
He added that efforts to attract students back to the system “are starting to show signs of progress.”
Alongside the preliminary enrollment data, the administration released figures on where families with children moved from the city. Department of Education data showed that New Jersey was the most popular destination for students who left the city, with 9,376 students. Next was the South, with 8,542 students. More than 5,600 students moved to Florida. Another 5,100 moved to Pennsylvania.
The enrollment figures were accompanied by an announcement from Schools Chancellor David Banks, which said schools that saw lower-than-expected enrollment would not see further cuts to their budgets this academic year. The city faces an ongoing lawsuit over an earlier round of school budget cuts estimated at $375 million, which prompted criticism from activists and elected officials.
“As we recover from the disruptions of the pandemic, we will ensure every student has the resources they need to thrive,” Banks said in a statement. “This investment will boost our schools that face continued enrollment challenges caused by the pandemic.”
Enrollment drives funding for schools. Every spring, the Department of Education projects how many students will be attending a given school and then distributes funding accordingly. If fewer students show up that fall, schools usually have to return a chunk of money.
During the first two years of the pandemic, former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration used federal stimulus money to “hold schools harmless” for enrollment declines, meaning they were able to keep their funds. At the time, officials argued that schools needed the additional funds to recover from the academic and emotional challenges students were facing during the health crisis.
But last summer, Mayor Eric Adams and Banks said the Department of Education would begin cutting school budgets to more closely reflect enrollment. Many schools faced cuts, forcing them to slash arts programs or combine classes.
Advocates responded to news that the administration planned to avoid further cuts with a mix of relief and frustration.
“While this commitment to hold school budgets harmless from mid-year cuts for enrollment declines is a step in the right direction, it does nothing to repair the damage and restore the funding that was cut from public schools in the city’s budget last summer,” Matt Gonzales, a member of New Yorkers for Racially Just Public Schools, said in a statement. “Mayor Adams still has an education debt to pay, and we will not forget.”