New report details factors in CPS enrollment drop
The report, produced by Kids First Chicago, says the slowing growth of Latino families and a steady out-migration of Black families from Chicago are big reasons for the downward trend at Chicago Public Schools.
The number of children enrolling in Chicago Public Schools has fallen precipitously over the past 20 years, and a new report examines three key drivers it says have contributed to the well-documented decline.
In 2000, more than 430,000 students were enrolled in a CPS school; that’s 100,000 more than the 330,000 students enrolled this school year. The loss of students could have significant funding consequences if the decline continues.
The report, produced by Kids First Chicago, contends public schools’ dropping enrollment has been driven by the declining number of births, along with slowing growth of Latino families and a steady out-migration of Black families from Chicago.
“If CPS’s enrollment trend is not reversed, declining revenue from the state, coupled with substantial fixed costs, will inevitably force CPS and individual schools to make difficult decisions in the years ahead,” said Daniel Anello, CEO of Kids First Chicago. “It is difficult to fathom a scenario where student outcomes improve and opportunity gaps close while CPS faces annual revenue declines due to declining student enrollment.”
The report, the first in a two-part series, sheds light on the root causes of the district’s enrollment woes. Kids First plans a second report to present some solutions from parents who either live or have lived in Chicago.
“We are an education advocacy organization, specifically targeting and trying to bring parents’ voices into system and policy change whether that is at the city level or state level,” Anello said. “Our goal is how do we bring facts and data to families, and have them arm us with what they are hearing on the ground, and in this case we have been looking at enrollment trends and having conversations for years.”
Hal Woods, chief of policy at Kids First Chicago, said some factors affecting enrollment are beyond CPS’ control, such as the declining number of babies born each year — something he called “a structural gap.”
In 2009, 44,000 babies were being born each year in Chicago, Woods said. That’s now down to 33,000, he added, “both because the rates are declining, people are having fewer children, but also because there’s less people here so less babies born.”
In 2021, less than 22,000 kindergartners enrolled in CPS — about 8,000 fewer than the number that enrolled in 2009, according to the report.
Woods said falling birth numbers are particularly striking among Latinas, which he thinks could be happening for a host of reasons — such as the cost of child care or couples waiting to have children.
Also behind those lower enrollment numbers is a 15% drop in Mexican immigrants coming to Chicago over the past decade.
Woods speculates that drop can be attributed to a more stable Mexican economy, stricter immigration policies and rising housing costs triggered by gentrification.
Traditionally Latino neighborhoods facing gentrification, like Pilsen, Little Village and Humboldt Park, have seen 22% dip in enrollment in just the past five years, according to the report.
The final driving factor the report highlights is the exodus of Black families from Chicago. The city lost 85,000 Black residents between 2010 and 2020, with families attributing their departure to their neighborhoods being stripped of amenities and resources.
“Whereas other population groups have seen declines based primarily on total births, the decline in Black residents is being driven by a mass departure of these families from the city,” the report said.
More than 85% of Black and Latino children are enrolled in public schools in Chicago, which is close to the 80% of Asian children. In contrast, only 55% of white school-age children living in the city are CPS students.
What that means is that for every 10 Black school-age children who leave, eight are likely to have been CPS students. So when a Black family leaves, there’s a greater chance it is also impacting CPS than when a white family leaves.
Woods said there are signs of hope.
Many departing Black families, he said, aren’t going far — to suburbs within Cook County, or to the collar counties or perhaps to nearby northwest Indiana.
If the city gives Black families a reason to come back by investing in neighborhoods, Wood said, they will.