K-12 sees largest enrollment decline in 30 years

Written by: Stephanie Perez-Carrillo
Date Posted: December 18, 2020

This week, the Colorado Department of Education announced the largest K-12 enrollment decline in three decades due to the impacts of the pandemic. The enrollment numbers pose new challenges for school district leaders as they head into winter break and for state lawmakers as they prepare for the fast-approaching legislative session.

Overall, Colorado schools posted an estimated 3.3 percent decrease in enrollment this fall compared to the previous school year with nearly 30,000 fewer students in preschool through 12th grade. Of the state’s 178 school districts, 141 reported drops in enrollment with the largest decreases in preschool and kindergarten. When disaggregated by race and ethnicity, American Indian or Alaska natives had the highest percent drop with nearly 6 percent fewer students in 2020 than in 2019.

In light of the preliminary enrollment numbers, state lawmakers will be charged with making difficult school finance decisions. Under normal circumstances, enrollment count is used to determine per pupil funding, which serves as the foundation for the state’s K-12 school finance formula. But because the enrollment decline is larger in some of the state’s biggest school districts, it will take more than just a silver bullet to address the problem.

Even before the pandemic, policy advocates and lawmakers were grappling with how to modernize the state’s outdated and inequitable school finance funding formula. The budget stabilization factor coupled with the economic challenges of the pandemic will mean that legislators from both sides of the aisle will have to come together to create innovative solutions to a unique problem.

The final results are expected to be confirmed by the middle of January. Click on this link to access the complete 2020-21 school year student count information.

Stephanie Perez-Carrillo

About Stephanie Perez-Carrillo

Stephanie works as a Policy Analyst for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign, she worked as a Public Policy Fellow at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado – where she found her love and passion for policy work. Before diving into the policy world, Stephanie served as a Teach for America Corps Member in South Carolina, teaching high school and middle school math. Early on while obtaining her degree in Marketing from Florida International University, she worked in health care as a Patient Advocate and Unit Secretary. When she is not working, you can typically find her at a coffee shop, hanging out with friends, or engaging in some type of outdoor activity.