School Enrollment Numbers Continue to Fall

"Where did all of the children go?" asks a headline in the St Louis Post-Dispatch (2/19/2023). The Covid pandemic is over, yet students have not returned to the public schools. Some school districts in the St. Louis region have 10 percent fewer students than they had in 2019. Nationally, more than 1.5 million students have left public education since the pandemic.

Usually, when a business loses customers, the business tries to figure out how to make its offerings more attractive to reach new customers. They lower their prices or they increase the quality of the merchandise. If the business is losing money, then they cut expenses and lay off workers.

But public schools do not have to be responsive to consumer demand. Because so much of their money comes from taxpayer support, the school administrators can ignore their customers (parents and children).

So how have schools responded to losing customers? The colleges and universities are increasing their tuition prices. School administrators are not being furloughed. 

Most importantly, the quality of the education is decreasing, not increasing. Test scores are down, not up. The customers (students) are getting less value for their investment. Unfortunately, many schools are not responsive to this crisis. I listened to one school board member in a St. Louis district (Christy Watz of Kirkwood) as she blamed the problem on too much testing. She argued that schools were spending too much time preparing for the state-mandated achievement tests that are designed to assess the quality of the education. So under her leadership, that school district stopped "teaching to the test" and then a majority of the students failed the state-mandated test. This school board member was pleased that her schools were ignoring the tests.

This begs the question: what are the schools teaching instead of the material that is on the achievement tests? It must be junk education, because so many parents have chosen to remove their children from government schools.

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