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Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are seeing dramatic declines in their enrollment. With a 3% drop in students nationwide, public schools are beginning to fear the worst about their numbers.
After a year of online classes, schools were expecting to recover their populations in 2021. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. This year, there was a considerable exodus of students from public schools to private, charter, and home-schooling. Some parents argue that these alternatives focus more on individual families.
Declining Public School Districts
Specifically in Chicago, neighborhoods like Little Village and Pilsen have seen their public schools drastically drop in numbers. These two historically Latino neighborhoods had some of the city’s worst percentages in enrollment loss this year. The schools are “down almost a fifth of their elementary students, compared with an almost 10 percent decrease districtwide,” according to Chalkbeat Chicago. Specifically, Pilsen’s Irma C. Ruiz Elementary School lost 25% of its students in two years.
While CPS is struggling, private schools are enjoying an increase in their student body. The smaller facilities and teacher-to-pupil ratios that were once bad for these schools are now important decision-makers for families.
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez witnessed first-hand as thousands of students transferred to these alternative schooling methods. “That was because the private schools were assuring the families that they would be open in-person, no matter what,” Martinez told NPR.
Change Around the Nation
Illinois is not alone. Registration decline is evident in many other U.S. cities. For example, a mother who pulled her child from a Seattle Public School told NPR that “sticking it out” through the pandemic was a “bad idea.” She said that the number of tech issues her child endured and an unwarranted staffing change made the argument in favor of switching to a private school very persuasive.
Conversely, this shift has positively impacted the popularity of private and charter schools in Chicago. North Lawndale has had a “steady increase in enrollment” compared to Pilsen and Little Village schools. Its charter college prep of the same name was one of the few that returned to in-person learning. CPS will have to step up and improve public schooling to win back parents after this mass migration.
Written by Ogechi Onyewuchi
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
WTTW: ‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Revitalizing North Lawndale; by Acacia Hernandez and Joanna Hernandez
WBEZ: Thousands of students left Chicago Public Schools this year, new data shows; by Sarah Karp
Chalkbeat Chicago: In Chicago, shrinking majority Latino schools pose a key enrollment challenge; by By Mila Koumpilova and Data Analysis by Thomas Wilburn
NPR: Where are the students? For a second straight year, school enrollment is dropping; by Anya Kamaneyz, Cory Turner, and Mansee Khurana
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Supafly’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of MD111’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License