School enrollments have dropped in past decade

Photo by Tom Rivers: An elementary student heads to the school bus this morning on East Park Street in Albion.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 September 2019 at 12:55 pm

The five school districts in Orleans County and most in Upstate New York are opening their doors this week to fewer students than a decade ago.

In Orleans County, the total student enrollment dropped by nearly 1,500 students or 20.7 percent, from 7,155 in 2008-09 to 5,673 in 2018-19, according to data from The Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank and government watchdog in Albany.

In Orleans County, Lyndonville saw the smallest decline at 16.7 percent while Holley had the highest drop at 23.2 percent in the decade.

This chart shows the drop in the 10 years for the five local school districts.

District                        2008-09           2018-19           enrollment drop          % decline

Albion                          2,313               1,865               448                              19.4

Holley                          1,272               977                  295                             23.2

Kendall                        863                  717                  146                              16.9

Lyndonville                   788                  629                159                               20.2

Medina                        1,919               1,485               434                              22.6

Countywide                 7,155               5,673               1,482                           20.7

Source: NYS Education Department, Orleans Hub calculations  

The Empire Center highlighted the enrollment losses on Tuesday. Click here to see the report. The organization said only about 100 of the 700 school districts in the state have added students in the decade. New York City and its nearby suburbs are seeing significant gains, while the upstate districts, especially the rural ones, are shrinking.

The total enrollment in public schools in the state last school year totaled 2,578,135, which was down 30,338 pupils from 2017-18 and at its lowest level since the 1990-91 count of 2,540,944, the Empire Center reported.

The state hit an all-time high for enrollment at 3.5 million in 1970-71, and has since shrunk by 1 million students.

The total enrollment has dropped 10 percent in state since 2000, which compares to a 7 percent growth nationally.

“The difference reflects underlying demographic trends, including upstate New York’s continuing population decline and out-migration losses to other states,” the Empire Center said. “School enrollments have been shrinking fastest in upstate rural counties, with increases most common downstate.”

Other districts close to Orleans County are seeing big declines in enrollment, too, including Brockport, down 18.5 percent from 4,125 to 3,362; Byron-Bergen, down 22.8 percent from 1,146 to 885; and Elba, down 25.6 percent from 527 to 392.

Schools in the Niagara-Orleans League also have much smaller student enrollments in the past decade.  Akron experienced the smallest loss at 14.1 percent, from 1,616 to 1,388, while Barker had the biggest decline at 25.4 percent, from 1,021 to 762.

Other NO districts include Roy-Hart, down 17.8 percent, from 1,572 to 1,293; Newfane, down 25.1 percent, from 1,962 to 1,469; and Wilson, down 23.3 percent from 1,446 to 1,109.

Starpoint, which is close to Wilson and Newfane, actually gained students during the decade, going up 4.3 percent, from 2,760 to 2,878.

Some WNY districts experienced student enrollment losses topping 30 percent in a decade, including Ripley, down 55.6 percent, from 356 to 158; West Valley, down 42.3 percent, from 397 to 229; and Cassadaga Valley, down 30.5 percent, from 1,236 to 859.

“These enrollment trends highlight the need for the kind of innovative reforms that New York’s governor, Legislature and union-dominated education establishment have resisted,” the Empire Center said. “For example, rural districts need more regulatory freedom to experiment with distance learning and regional high school programs. Relief from state mandates—especially those affecting the hiring, assignment and compensation of teachers—would give all districts the greater flexibility they need to deal effectively with the biggest demographic changes they have experienced in a generation.”

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