Washington state’s biggest school district is considering shuttering some schools and laying off staff in the near future as enrollment rates continue to drop following the pandemic.
Seattle Public Schools officials floated the idea of “consolidating” schools during a workshop reported on by The Seattle Times. Funding for most school districts is tied to the number of students, so declines in enrollment will likely contribute to budget shortfalls.
The city’s school system has lost more than 3,500 students since the pandemic and expects to lose another 3,000 by the 2025-2026 school year, according to data from the district. If that happens, it will mark a 12.5% decrease in enrollment over six years.
EDUCATION BOARD MEMBER GETS BOOTED AFTER DEFENDING CONSTITUTION, SPEAKING OUT AGAINST SOCIALISM
It’s not entirely clear where students are going, said Jen Garrison Stuber of the Washington Homeschool Organization.
Homeschooling rates in Washington nearly doubled at the height of the pandemic, according to state data, and currently sit at about a 43% increase over the 2019-2020 school year. But in Seattle, there are actually fewer registered homeschoolers than before the pandemic, Garrison Stuber said.
“I really think that what Seattle’s seeing, where those students have gone are either to private schools or they’ve left the school district and have moved elsewhere,” she said.
Seattle could begin consolidating schools going into the fall of 2024, with rough estimates showing $28 million in savings, the Times reported.
HEAR WHY ONE MOM PULLED HER KIDS FROM PUBLIC SCHOOL POST-PANDEMIC:
WATCH MORE FOX NEWS DIGITAL ORIGINALS HERE
In Oregon, Portland schools have seen an even larger exodus, losing about 8% of their students since 2019, according to The Oregonian. Most of that decrease was at the elementary level, but Portland Public Schools officials do not plan to close any schools, the outlet reported.
Garrison Stuber suspects a desire for stability is motivating some parents who have kept their children out of public schools post-pandemic.
“A lot of [homeschool parents] said, ‘We don’t want the schools to pull the rug out from under us,'” she said.
And as remote learning forced many parents to effectively take on homeschooling duties, Garrison Stuber said some families found joy in taking their children’s education into their own hands.
“Homeschool’s dirty little secret: You end up really liking your kids,” she said. “They’re enthusiastic about what they’re getting into and the things that they’re learning.”
Ebbing enrollment isn’t limited to blue states that had strict pandemic closures and restrictions — Texas officials are projecting a 2.2% decline over the next four years, pointing to declining birth rates as the cause.
Classroom politicization has also driven some parents to send their kids to private schools or educate them at home.
“I feel like I’m able to control what they learn, control the speed of which they learn so they learn at a much faster rate, and control outside influences as far as peer pressure, bullying, political agendas,” Texas mom Tara Carter told Fox News in September, after pulling her young children from public school.