(The Center Square) – An increasing number of parents have withdrawn their children from California's traditional public schools over the past six years, data from the California Department of Education reveals.
Over that time, California public schools have seen a 4% decrease in enrollment. EdSource estimates that declines in K-12 enrollment began in the 2004-05 school year.
Over the six-year period analyzed, charter school enrollment saw a net gain of 145,677 students and non-charter public schools reported a loss of 378,674 students.
Several counties reported significant charter school enrollment increases.
The greatest increases were reported in El Dorado and Contra Costa counties, a whopping 252% and 114%, respectively. Orange County saw a 74% increase in charter school enrollment.
In San Francisco County, charter schools enrolled 1,697 new students, a 30% increase while the county’s non-charter public-school enrollment decreased by 2%.
In Los Angeles County, charter school enrollment increased by 24,203 students, or 13%, whereas public schools lost 173,121 students over the last seven years.
Despite decreases in enrollment, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “California Comeback” plan would direct the largest windfall of state and federal money toward the state’s public school system. Prior to federal COVID relief money, California spent an estimated $21,000 per student in the 2019-20 school year in K-12 public schools, the California Policy Center estimates, “when taking into account capital spending and the state’s supplemental contribution to CalSTRS.”
The state’s current funding formula for California’s K-14 education budget has been in place since 1988 after voters passed Proposition 98. Since then, state law requires 40% of California’s general fund budget be allocated to K-14 education.
In Newsom’s original 2020-21 budget, funding for K-12 public schools was $84 billion. In May, he increased the amount to $93.7 billion, an additional $1,500 per student.
Newsom also pledged to direct $27 billion of the state’s surplus to K-12 schools and community colleges, in addition to supplemental federal funding of $15 billion, Capitol Public Radio reports.
He also announced that $20 billion would be allocated “to transform California public schools into gateways of equity and opportunity.” Included in his plan is a “universal pre-k and college savings accounts for 3.7 million low-income children in public schools.”
Overall, additional spending plans total closer to $25,000 per pupil in K-12 public schools, the California Policy Center estimates.
However, it warns, “The problem with setting up vast new categories of public spending on education – universal pre-K, college savings accounts, massive new hiring for school counselors and other support personnel, is that these new programs create new structural, perennial costs, and that additional burden makes it even harder to adapt when the economy slows down.”