Enrollment within Chicago Public Schools has fallen for another school year, this time by just over 10,000 students, according to new data published by the district.
CPS on Wednesday announced that its 20th-day enrollment stands at 330,411 students. That’s a 3% decline from the 340,658 students who were enrolled in the district last year.
The district’s overall enrollment is down nearly 25,000 students over the past two years and more than 73,000 students compared with a decade ago, when CPS enrollment topped 404,000.
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez pinned the enrollment decline on multiple factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, a drop in the city’s birth rate and transfers outside of the school district. Speaking at his first board meeting as district CEO, Martinez pledged a “deeper dive” by his administration both into the impact these declines have on individual schools and neighborhoods, as well as the reasons why students are leaving not only the district, but the city entirely.
“The vast majority of students that we see leaving are leaving Chicago,” he said. “It does beg a lot of questions for me.”
Nearly 47,000 students left CPS from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year. That number jumped up to almost 54,000 from last school year to the current one, the district said. And although some 43,500 new students entered CPS this year, it wasn’t enough to offset those losses.
Latino students still make up the largest population of CPS students at 46.6%, but that racial group also saw the biggest decline in students, year-over-year, with more than 5,000 students lost. Black students now make up a slightly larger portion of the district (36%), while white students account for 10.8% of enrollment.
All three of those racial groups lost students from one year to the next. The number of Asian students also fell, while the number of multiracial students increased slightly.
According to district data, CPS saw enrollment declines across every grade level from K-8, while high school enrollment stayed relatively flat with some increases.
Board vice president Sendhil Revuluri described the enrollment loss as a “bucket of cold water,” but said CPS must “confront the reality” of these declines and work to reverse them.
The Chicago Teachers Union blamed these a lack of investments from the city in the form of underfunded schools, a lack of affordable housing and a shortage of mental health supports.
“A year and a half of pandemic disease and death has exacerbated needs in neighborhoods that have been neglected for decades,” the union said in a statement. “This ought to be a moment of reflection and an opportunity for transformative investment and vision. Families must see the mayor and district committing and implementing investments that do more than pay lip service to the ongoing inequities.”
Another concern, raised by board president Miguel del Valle, was about the levels of violence in the city. Chicago has already seen more than 660 homicides this year, and del Valle said many parents are “concerned for the safety of their children and the block they live.”
“And so they look to relocate, and sometimes that relocation happens outside the city of Chicago because it’s getting more and more expensive for some of these families to relocate within more and more neighborhoods in the city of Chicago,” he said. “That’s reality.”