Data Show Largest K-12 Enrollment Decline in 20 Years

California experienced a 3% decline in K-12 public school enrollment during the 2020-21 school year, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Education. The loss of 160,000 students represents the most substantial decline in 20 years.

“In a year that has been so challenging for educators, students, and families, it is concerning to see this decrease, especially those in our youngest grades,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Thurmond said. “While there are many reasons to stay optimistic that enrollment will rebound as conditions improve, allowing more schools to safely return to in-person instruction, we also must help schools identify opportunities to engage with families who either sought new options for their students during the pandemic or need additional resources and support to connect with school and succeed.” 

Losses were concentrated among the youngest learners. According to the CDE, the largest grade-level decreases occurred among kindergarteners and those in grade six.

Enrollment declines at the three largest school districts were as follows:

  • Los Angeles Unified School District — decline of 20,841 or 4.76%
  • Long Beach Unified School District — decline of 2,003 or 2.8%
  • San Diego Unified School District — decline of 4,270 or 4.2%

See also:

Missing kindergartners drive largest drop in 20 years in California's K-12 enrollment