States Where Public Schools Are Losing the Most Students

The coronavirus pandemic heavily disrupted the U.S. public elementary and secondary school system. School shutdowns in 2020 emptied school buildings and wreaked havoc on home life as students and parents coped with online learning alternatives during the peak of the pandemic.

As the county approaches the 2022-2023 academic year, public school systems nationwide are still reeling with lower enrollment numbers compared to pre-pandemic levels. Public school funding is tied to student numbers, and that means public primary and secondary educational districts face funding cuts. New York City, which has the nation’s largest school district, is poised to slash $200 million from its public school budget, a move that is being fought in court. (These are the states spending the most on public schools.)

Nationwide, nearly 862,000 fewer students in public primary and secondary school are expected to enroll for the fall 2022 semester, a 1.7% decrease from fall 2019. Enrollment changes vary across states.

To identify the states where public schools are losing the most students, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed public school enrollment figures and projections from the National Center for Education Statistics. States were ranked based on the percent decline in public school enrollment from fall 2019 to the fall 2022, using NCES’s enrollment estimates.

Total population and high school attainment — the percentage of the population 25 or older with at least a high school diploma — came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2020 5-year estimates.

In 33 states, student enrollment is estimated to have declined by 0.5% or more compared to 2019. In total, about 955,000 fewer students enrolled in public school in these states, according to estimates from the NCES, a 2.5% decline compared to enrollment in 2019.

Among the top 10 most populous states, Michigan, New York, and California are projected to see declines in public elementary and secondary schools enrollment of between 3% and 4.6%, or a total of nearly 392,000 fewer students compared to the fall 2019 enrollment period.

Seventeen states are not included on this list either because their public elementary and secondary school enrollment numbers increased or decreased by less than 0.5%. Combined, nearly 81,000 more students are expected to enroll in these states compared to the fall of 2019.

The reasons for the widespread decline in enrollment are not fully clear. The New York Times, citing experts, suggests that either parents became fed up with pandemic-era mandates and sent their kids instead to other schools that do not have to adhere to public mandates or began homeschooling them. Another explanation could be that due to pandemic-related financial hardships, students simply dropped out. (These are the 50 schools with the most toxic air.)

Here are the state public school systems losing the most students.

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