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CPS loses another 10K students, enrollment now at 361K

Sun-Times file photo

For the third year in a row, enrollment at Chicago Public Schools has dropped by about 10,000 students this fall, officials announced Friday, as an official count revealed 361,314 students in the country’s third largest school system.

The number of students has been falling for the past seven years, and is down a whopping 41,000 kids from 402,681 in June 2011 — just after Mayor Rahm Emanuel first took office.

The official count was taken on Oct. 1, the 20th day of school. And CPS remains the country’s third largest school system but the gap between it and the fourth largest, Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida, is shrinking. As of April, Miami-Dade’s pre-K-12 enrollment measured 354,172.

District-run elementary schools saw the largest drop, with about 7,000 fewer students than a year ago, a 3 percent decline. But privately-managed charter and contract schools also saw enrollment drop by about 400 students or 1 percent of last year’s enrollment, according to figures CPS provided.

Also boding ill for the district’s future growth: preschool enrollment in CPS-managed and charter schools dropped by 9 percent or about 1,700 students. CPS’ current kindergarten class also is at its smallest since 2005-06 at 24,128, down from its peak of 30,936 in 2012-13.

CPS still budgets money for schools on a per-pupil basis so the approximately 300 schools that gained enrollment over the number of students they were projected to enroll were given a share of about $15 million in additional funding. But schools where enrollment dropped mostly kept their initial funding — except for the 54 schools that took an advance believing they could attract more kids and fell short of their own projections.

Another $15 million was set aside for the schools that saw dramatic population losses or have shrunken too much to offer a full course load on their own.

“The district’s improved financial position means we can support growing schools and invest more in schools where enrollment is declining with funds specifically designed to support schools that are under-enrolled,” CEO Janice Jackson said in a press release. “We’re also pleased to see this year that more families who choose CPS are keeping their children enrolled in CPS schools — a testament to our hardworking educators and the work the city is doing to invest in all our schools.”

Jackson chalked up some of the loss to declining birthrates and national immigration trends but said that CPS has held onto a consistent rate of school-aged children over the past five years. And CPS has done a better job holding on to high school students than in the past, though more than 20 high schools have fewer than the 270-student minimum for a full roster of courses, and a couple have under 100 kids.

But Chicago Teachers Union president Jesse Sharkey said the shrinking student body results from failed policies by the Emanuel administration.

“School closings, disinvestment in black and brown neighborhoods and the subsequent displacement of both teachers and students are directly related to city policies that drive out working class families,” he said in a statement. He noted that African-American and Hispanic students accounted for nearly the whole decline, as CPS added about 250 kids who identified as either white or multiracial.

“The lack of quality jobs, safe neighborhoods and affordable housing have led to an exodus of working class families from the city,” he said. “This is all the manifestation of Rahm’s failed leadership of Chicago, as he has nurtured inequity and turned his back on the most vulnerable Chicagoans for the last seven years.”