Georgia schools experienced a significant decline in enrollment during the years of educating students during the pandemic. Parents across the state are concerned about the safety of children in public schools as well as academic learning loss.
Chris Stewart, CEO of Brightbeam, frequently tweets, “How are the children?” When looking at the declining numbers of students returning back to public schools, I think we need to be asking, “where are the children?”
The Atlanta Voice highlights that between March 2020 and March 2021, the number of African American students enrolled in Atlanta Public Schools went from 37,517 students to 36,641 students.
According to the Atlanta Voice, “a spokesperson from Atlanta Public Schools stated, “Prior to COVID-19, enrollment in Atlanta Public Schools had been increasing steadily since 2013. Our district saw a slight decrease for the 2020-2021 school year, with the largest percentage decreases in pre-K and kindergarten, mirroring a statewide trend.”
Declining Numbers in Public Schools Is A Gain for Businesses But a Loss For Communities.
8,000 students missing from a public school district is a major loss on many levels. According to PBS, Orange County, Fla. has 8,000 missing students. The Miami-Dade County public schools have 16,000 fewer than last year. The article highlights Los Angeles Unified — the nation’s second-largest school system — is down nearly 11,000. Charlotte-Mecklenburg in North Carolina has 5,000 missing. Utah, Virginia, and Washington are also reporting declines statewide.
Most of the articles on the decline in public schools numbers are focusing on the loss from COVID-19. However, there are only two options that would reflect a) there are significant numbers of missing children or b) students are enrolling in other school choice options.
Either way, there has to be a conversation on the pros and cons of declining numbers in public schools. Believe it or not, there are people who will benefit from the fall of public schools. Mainly those financially invested in school choice. This could benefit the increase in school choice options from charter schools, home school, virtual programs, learning pods or in Atlanta, partner schools.
However, there would be many concerns financially that would have a negative impact on the tax base. If public schools close, who becomes the local education agency responsible for educating children? The actual function of the school board and superintendent would be jeopardized.
Public school leaders should be responding to this with strong school improvement plans. The plans should include the process for how the district will reimagine what education looks like. This means everyone is actively working in their lane to make this happen.
School board members would have to review and revise policies impacting how schools are operated. Innovation would be an access point and not a barrier to the changes needed to reimagine public education. Budgeting and planning for financing equitable educational practices is something that would have to be more transparent and inclusive of educating children.
This will impact how public school districts operate moving forward in an technologically advanced society. The way in which we educate our children, operate and fund our schools has to change.
2020 swept us off our feet with the pandemic and caused an already damaged system to almost fold.
2021 showed us that we aren’t so much “as for the children” as we believe.
So in 2022, reimagining education can no longer simply be a bright idea; it’s a necessary action for the future.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.