Technical assistance

State Superintendent Announces Creation of Task Force to Address Declining School Enrollment

SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced a new effort to support and enhance a system-wide approach to address the challenges of declining student enrollment in the state of California with the creation of a new working group.

National data shows declining enrollment is plaguing public schools across the country and recent figures released by the California Department of Education (CDE) show that California is no exception. Unlike many other states, California is a local control state, which means local communities have a greater role in shaping local spending and program decisions. In practice, California school districts are exploring their own ways to best respond to funding declines that correlate with declining enrollment plaguing the state as a whole.

“I am committed to meeting the needs of all of our schools and school districts and while each school and community has its own history and conditions, declining enrollment is something we face together,” said the Superintendent Thurmond. “For many communities this is not a new challenge, but after two years of the pandemic the impacts feel magnified and the future looks daunting. I want this working group to intend to understand the why of the declines and sharing local ideas and efforts that we could consider scaling to make a real difference.

Working group co-chairs:

  • Dr. Lande Ajose, Vice President and Walter and Esther Hewlett Chair in Understanding California’s Future, Public Policy Institute of California
  • Jeff Freitas, President, California Federation of Teachers
  • Dr. Edgar Zazueta, Executive Director, California Association of School Administrators
  • Tatiana Davenport, Executive Director, California Association of School Business Officials

The task force will address the issue of declining enrollment and offer recommendations and technical assistance to districts to help offset the challenges it poses. Under the leadership of Superintendent Thurmond and the co-chairs announced today, the task force will focus on analyzing data to understand trends related to the decline, including which districts students are leaving and where they are going. The working group will also study relevant data, including birth rate, immigration and housing costs, which have been shown to influence population fluctuations, particularly the declines seen in a number of urban areas of the state.

To date, the CDE and Thurmond have conducted preliminary efforts to help districts offset declining enrollment. These include securing grants to help Oakland Unified and Inglewood Unified address issues related to chronic absenteeism, specifically supporting outreach efforts for students who have disengaged from school during the pandemic.

Thurmond is currently sponsoring and pursuing legislation that is supposed to help districts access immediate resources to help offset declining enrollment. These include BA 1614 (Muratsuchi) to increase the funding base of schools received through the Local Control Funding Formula, and SB 830 (Portantino) to increase funding for schools based on enrollment rather than attendance. Thurmond also sponsors SB 952 (Limón) which will provide funding to existing schools to convert into bilingual immersion schools. Recognizing that dual-language immersion programs are popular offerings among parents, this effort is one more way to bring families back to California schools.

Superintendent Thurmond encourages those interested in learning more about the task force or sharing ideas on registration to email [email protected].