On the 20th day of school, Oakland’s district schools counted about 36,260 students. That’s 1,750 fewer kids than there were a year ago, a drop of 4.6 percent, according to 2012-13 enrollment figures recently released by OUSD.
Multiply that loss by $5,000, a rough estimate of general-purpose, per-student state funding (otherwise known as the revenue limit), and you are approaching $9 million. OUSD will have that much less to spend in 2013-14, in addition to any statewide trigger cuts and reduced special-purpose money, according to that crude calculation.
So much for the district’s optimistic projections. What’s more, this year’s drop follows several years of relatively flat enrollment. The school system experienced a crippling loss of students in the early to mid 2000s, a major factor in its infamous fiscal meltdown, but the trend began to level out a few years years ago.
The two most apparent factors influencing this sudden development are last year’s school closures and this year’s charter school openings — though as I’ve reported, Oakland’s school-age population (5-17) dwindled by 20 percent between 2000 and 2010.
Charter schools: Six new charter schools opened in Oakland this fall, including three schools that left the district, taking many of their students with them — in one case, because it was being closed. Enrollment at the new schools adds up to about 1,600. That brings the total number of children attending an Oakland charter school up to to 12,500, according to data from the OUSD Office of Charter Schools (whose coordinator, Gail Greely, took a job at the Alameda County Office of Education as of this past Monday).
The enrollments of the three schools that left OUSD — ASCEND, Learning Without Limits and Lazear — account for about 1,100 of those students.
Sometimes charters draw students from outside of the city, or those who’d otherwise go to a private school or a public school in a nearby district. Of course, even if we knew that every one of the 1,600 students at the new charter schools would otherwise have enrolled in OUSD, it still wouldn’t explain the entire enrollment drop.
School closures: By now, I’m pretty sure the district knows exactly how many of the students enrolled in grades k-4 last year at Lakeview, Lazear, Maxwell Park, Marshall and Santa Fe went on to attend another OUSD school, and how many didn’t. I’ve asked for that information, but have yet to receive it. I’m told a full analysis and accounting is being prepared for a December meeting, but I don’t see why that basic question can’t be answered earlier. We’re already more than two months into the school year.
On the bright(er) side: OUSD still has far more students than it was projected to have in a 2007 forecast. I dug up a grim report from June 2007 (one of my first, ridiculously headlined blog posts!), back when enrollment was 39,694. The school district was expected to have only 32,000 students by 2012.
There’s much to be analyzed in all these numbers, in terms of what’s happening, why, and how the changes are affecting schools. What do you think this will this mean for OUSD?