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NY Post
New York Post
5 Aug 2023


NextImg:Kindergarten among highest enrollment declines as families flee DOE

Kindergarten enrollment in city public schools is plummeting as parents reject the troubled system — and the hardest-hit districts could suffer for years to come, experts told The Post.

A staggering 18% fewer kindergarten students citywide enrolled last year than in 2016.

The numbers dropped from 82,500 to 67,200 in those seven years, and have further dipped to 59,564 in June, according to city Department of Education data obtained by The Post.

District 9 in the Bronx, which covers Riverdale, Bedford Park, and Norwood, saw the largest decline — 29% — with 690 fewer kindergartners signing up.

It was among three other Bronx districts that saw enrollment declines of 25% or more.

In Manhattan’s District 5, which covers most of Central Harlem and parts of East and West Harlem, last year’s kindergarten enrollment dipped by almost a quarter.

Students there have begged for better schools and overwhelmingly attend publicly funded, privately-run charter schools instead of traditional public schools.

The data shows that 37,600 students transferred out of NYC and over 18,000 transferred to charters.
Helayne Seidman

“The same opportunities just aren’t there,” said Donald Niang, a Harlem father of two, who chose Global Community Charter School in Harlem over a District 5 school for his kindergartener last year.

“These charter schools, they introduce kids to things that broaden their horizons and open their minds, and that means a lot to me,” Niang said.

Harlem mom Marsha Taylor told The Post back in May that she was “mortified” to see the state test results for local DOE schools and ultimately enrolled her two kids at Global Community.

“I made the switch and I’m glad that I did. I have not regretted my decision,” she said. 

Marsha Taylor sent her two children to a charter school instead of a public school in Harlem.
J.C. Rice

While charters saw significant enrollment gains, growing by over 20,000 students, about 18%, traditional public school enrollment for grades K-12 cratered by 14%, nearly 150,000 kids, over the past five years, according to the latest June records obtained by The Post.

Total 3K-12th grade enrollment is now at 859,124.

The data also shows that 37,600 students transferred out of NYC and over 18,000 transferred to charters.

Analysis of test results shows that NYC charter students perform among the best in the country and outpace their local public school peers, less than half of whom passed English and math standardized tests in grades 3-8 last year.

“Parents don’t think a general-ed public school will meet their child’s needs,” said Alina Adams, author of “Getting into NYC Kindergarten.” “The fact is, the bar in New York is so low, all children could do a higher level of work.”

Declining birth rates are partially to blame for enrollment drops, said Adams, but pervasive concerns about plunging public school standards are pushing parents out.

The city has one of the latest birthday cutoffs in the country, requiring many kids to start kindergarten at age 4, which some say is too young and could have long-term consequences, Adams said. 

Parents also oppose lottery admissions for Gifted and Talented programs and fear reading is not being taught properly.

“During the pandemic, when schools were remote, parents saw what was actually happening in classrooms,” said Adams. “There was this attitude of, ‘That is not very impressive.’”

While charters saw significant enrollment gains, about 18%, traditional public school enrollment for grades K-12 cratered by 14%.

While charters saw significant enrollment gains, about 18%, traditional public school enrollment for grades K-12 cratered by 14%.

Helayne Seidman

She saw parents turn to private schools or move out of state.

The city continues funneling money into the shrinking and underperforming system. Per-student spending is $38,000, up 47% from $25,000 in 2016-’17, according to the Citizens Budget Commission.

Having to “prop up” under-enrolled schools will lead to a fiscal disaster, said Adams.

Fewer students mean less funding for schools.

“You don’t want to leave any seats empty in kindergarten because that dictates your budget,” said Yiatin Chu, an NYC public school parent and co-founder of Parent Leaders for Accelerated Education NYC. “Schools that can’t get kids in kindergarten are going to be suffering from budget implications for years to come.”