Sep 5, 2013
Connecticut's Public School Enrollment Continues to Decline
Laurie Gaboardi/The Litchfield County Times.
Graduation at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village this past June.
Following the trends of recent Septembers, classrooms in Connecticut are gradually becoming more empty. According to the Connecticut Department of Education, public school enrollment in the state continues to to decline after peaking in 2004-05 at 577,398.
Don't expect this trend to change any time soon, even though the state's overall population will continue to grow over the course of this decade. Connecticut has one of the nation's lowest birth rates at 10.4 percent (or 104 annual births per 1,000 women). Looking at the Connecticut State Data Center's population projections over the next decade plus, in the three age groups that essentially make up Connecticut's student population [5-9 years old, 10-14 and 15-19], the youth population will continue to decrease.
In 2015, the population for people aged 5-19 is estimated to be 700,758. That number is expected to drop to 660,077 by 2020—a six percent decrease—and then to 631,241 in 2025, which is five percent less than 2020. Doing the simple math, fewer kids equals fewer enrolled students for the foreseable future.
In light of these trends, earlier this year, we had published an in-depth look at potential school reform in the state, which included redistricting the state's 165 school districts into six, a move that would help reduce many duplicated administrative services and costs. The savings from reforms like wholesale upper-level management consolidation, a unified school calendar for the entire state, shared bus services, etc.—could then be reallocated to where everyone agrees that it would do the most good: in the classroom.
The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents [CAPSS] is also looking at the challenges presented by declining enrollment as part of its NextEd school reform initiiative. As part of its step to "Offer More Options and Choices," they suggest the state "Review existing district structures based on 1) the capacity to provide different options for children to meet education standards; 2) economic, social and geographic factors." Also recommended is "Structure school districts so that they’re fiscally independent," which also would help to address the issues regarding declining student populations.
As state educators continue to work to meet challenges involved with reforming—and improving—Connecticut's schools, declining enrollment will continue to be part of the discussion.