In calm, measured tones, a demographer told the Oakland school board that the district’s already dwindled enrollment of 39,700 could shrink to 26,200 in just five years. Five years ago, more than 53,000 kids attended regular district schools.
The drop will more likely be reduced to just 32,000 by 2011-12, the demographers said, but that’s still a pretty steep slide. It matters for financial reasons, since the district — and in Oakland, individual schools — are funded based on their average attendance.
The explosion of publicly funded, independently run charter schools is one major cause cited in the report. Other reasons are people moving out of the area and lower birth rates.
In all fairness to charters, not every family who chooses a charter school would have otherwise signed up for the Oakland school system. But some of them probably would have.
I plan to write a story about this soon. If any of you want to share your thoughts on why you think the school system is shrinking, what that might mean for the students who stay in the system, or what the district should do to draw more students, comment away.
Also, feel free to e-mail me with your contact info so I can interview you — especially if you think this is not a big deal.