California's Enrollment Rollercoaster

EdSource Special Report

California’s Enrollment Rollercoaster

Above: A kindergarten student raises her hand in a dual-language immersion class.

For the first time in two decades, California’s K-12 enrollment dropped under 6 million students, a sure sign that many students did not return after the pandemic. But within the state, there was movement: sharp enrollment declines in coastal counties – the rural north and urban Los Angeles and Orange County, where housing prices outpaced incomes – and sharp increases inland, as families moved east to bigger lots and cheaper homes. New data for the 2021-22 school year dashed any hopes of a rebound. And demographers project even more loss by 2030, even with a post-pandemic recovery.

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