After 15 years of consecutive drops, the number of students enrolled in Chicago’s public schools fell again this year.
Enrollment dropped 2.7 percent, to 361,314 students, from the previous fall, according to a count taken on the 20th day of school. New data were released Friday. (The district also released new school ratings on Friday. You can find your school’s latest rating here.)
Size matters, because the number of students determines how many critical state dollars a district receives. In Chicago, state funding accounts for roughly 30 percent of the district budget, including paying into the employee pension fund.
At the school level, per-student funding determines how many teachers a principal can hire, whether or not there are librarians and arts teachers, and how many programs are offered. Principals received this school year’s budgets last spring based on prior year counts.
Schools that lost students will not lose funding for this year; however, 54 schools that anticipated growth and that did not hit targets will lose money. The average adjustment per school is $59,000, with $3.2 million in total forfeited, the district said. The district said in a statement that it will not eliminate any jobs as a result.
On the flip side, the district also announced that schools that gained students since last school year would receive additional funding — to total $15.5 million across 307 schools. That’s to account for budgeting that was based on previous year counts.
“The district’s improved financial position means we can support growing schools and invest more in schools where enrollment is declining with funds specifically designed to support schools that are underenrolled,” said Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson.
Plans to support schools losing population include such assists as a $10 million small schools fund and a new underenrolled schools policy — passed by the board this week — that codifies alternatives to closure.
The number of students in Chicago charters declined by 1 percent to total 54,569, and the number of prekindergarten students dropped by less than 1 percent, too, to 17,668, despite a citywide push under Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Chicago schools aren’t the only ones shrinking. Enrollment is down across the state. A declining birth rate, fewer immigrants, and a population in retrenchment are all to blame.
District projections show Chicago schools losing another 20,000 students across the next three years. The trends mirror population drops in Chicago, which has about 182,000 fewer residents than it did 18 years ago, according to U.S. Census data. More than 220,000 black residents have left the city since the year 2000.