Chicago Public Schools has lost nearly 11,000 students since last fall, with enrollment dropping to 381,349 students.
That may be the largest single-year enrollment decline the district ever has undergone. It is certainly the steepest so far this century.
Most of the losses came from district elementary schools and the CPS preschool program, but charter schools lost enrollment, too.
Students in district-run schools for kindergarten through grade 12 now account for 295,138 students, compared to 303,148 a year ago.
Those same grades account for 63,405 students in charter, alternative and options schools for kids at risk of dropping out.
CPS did not account for the large drops but did dole out $12.8 million to 116 schools whose enrollment had plummeted so precipitously they struggled to provide a complete roster of classes without the help.
Nor would the district say where the students ended up.
A bright spot in the dismal news is that the five-figure drop won’t immediately cost CPS any state or federal money this year, though it will eventually catch up. The governor’s education budget guarantees districts at least as much money as last year, and federal funding streams aren’t allocated in real time.
Last year was particularly trying for the district that, since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took over, has undergone a teacher strike, the closure of 50 neighborhood schools and the criminal indictment of its CEO.
Budgets already stretched to the bone were further cut mid-year. Teachers threatened to strike again, the governor attempted a financial takeover, and the district imposed several furlough days.
By summer, the instability had culminated in a record number of principals resigning.
Some families apparently followed their lead.
“Families are fleeing CPS,” said Phil Huckelberry, an Local School Council member at Prussing Elementary School. “We have no confidence in the Mayor, CPS administration, or the City Council. This trend is only going to continue.”
CPS had 402,681 students in June 2011, right after Emanuel took office. Enrollment rose to 404,151 that September, but has trickled downward ever since.
The district has chalked up some of its recent losses to low birth rates overall, and the reversal of immigration trends to Chicago.
But the school system just lost students in every grade except 4th, 8th, 11th and 12th. Some of the steep preschool drop of 1,882 students results from the conversion of half-day spots to full-day programs, reducing availability by 1,000, spokeswoman Emily Bittner said.
According to its official count taken on the 20th day of school — this year, that was Oct. 3 — CPS now has 217,812 students in its grade schools, down a whopping 8,000 students.
Somehow, district-run high schools, which have suffered losses in past years, eked up by five students since last year, with about 77,325 students.
Some new and coveted high school spots may have partially offset some of the declines at some lower performing neighborhood schools that have long been caught in a downward spiral of losing students and programs. For example, CPS just opened the new Dyett High School in Bronzeville to a full freshman class of 149, as well as an addition at the popular Walter Payton College Prep High School open to about 100 more freshmen.
Charter and contract schools for standard students lost about 570 students, and alternative schools another 500. Options schools dipped by about 300 students as well.
CPS’ enrollment, declining for many years, was estimated at a 13,000-student loss at a preliminary 10th-day count, more than twice as many as projected last summer. But some 2,400 kids have since showed up.
The largest affected group: African-American students. There are 8,500 fewer than a year ago, for a total of 143,849, and they make up 37.7 percent of all CPS students. Another 2,700 Hispanic students left as well; that leaves 177,492, who make up 46.5 percent.
Only 57 students who identify as white left Chicago’s public schools. And yet the proportion of white students to others in the district rose this year, to 9.9 percent from 9.6 percent.
Here are the official fall counts for the past 19 years:
- 2016: 381,349
- 2015: 392,285
- 2014: 396,683
- 2013: 400,545
- 2012: 403,461
- 2011: 404,151
- 2010: 402,681
- 2009: 409,279
- 2008: 407,955
- 2007: 408,601
- 2006: 413,694
- 2005: 420,982
- 2004: 426,812
- 2003: 434,419
- 2002: 438,589
- 2001: 437,618
- 2000: 435,470
- 1999: 431,750
- 1998: 431,085