New York City public schools expect to begin the 2022-23 school year with a drastic decline in student enrollment, according to city data obtained by the New York Post.

The city’s Office of Student Enrollment reportedly projected a loss of 28,100 students by the start of school. The total surpasses 30,000 when added to the 2,300 students predicted to leave the NYC public school system during the year.

The new numbers indicate a continuation of the trend of students leaving the largest school district in the country, which has experienced an 8% decline in enrollment since the beginning of the pandemic. Compared to over one million enrolled students in the 2019-20 school year, NYC schools anticipate just 760,439 children by the end of 2022-23. 

“Here’s what’s happening with the Department of Education: We have a massive hemorrhaging of students — massive hemorrhaging. We’re in a very dangerous place in the number of students that we are dropping,” said NYC Mayor Eric Adams at an event on July 11.

COVID-era policies likely quickened the exodus of 120,000 families from NYC schools that occurred over the past five years. Many families had to grapple with extended public school closures and learning loss caused by the pandemic. Displeased parents started looking for alternative educational options like charter schools. While traditional public school enrollment decreased during COVID, public charter schools saw a nationwide rise in students. The NYC Independent Budget Office reported a 6.9% increase in charter enrollment from 2020-22, according to the New York Post. Enrollment in New York City Catholic schools increased as well.

The national drop in public school students is impacting other city-based school districts such as Los Angeles Unified, the second largest school district in the country. California overall saw its public school enrollment fall below six million in 2021-2022, losing about 110,000 students in the span of one year. LAUSD had approximately 430,000 students in 2021-22, the result of a steady decline from its peak of 737,000 students 21 years ago. Predictions show that the trend will not change anytime soon, since LAUSD expects enrollment to further decline by 30% over the next ten years.

The migration of students from large urban school districts reflects a discontent among parents with unresponsive government-controlled systems. The poor handling of the pandemic left parents dissatisfied, and the promotion of divisive ideology only perpetuates the widespread negative attitude toward public education. Lawmakers should listen to parents and support school choice policies that give parents direct access to education funding, so they can make the best educational decisions for their children.