L.A. Unified enrollment continues to fall, but drop is cushioned by influx of 4-year-olds
For a decade after the 1999 merger of the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles City Unified School District, the number of students in Los Angeles’ public schools more than doubled, according to the county Department of Education.
But in the past 10 years, the number of students in public school has declined 7 percent, said L.A. Unified Chief Academic Officer Nancy Dechter. “That’s a huge number, and I think, in our opinion, it’s largely due to the fact that we’ve added so many students who are four years of age and younger,” she said.
In the past nine years, the rate of students graduating from seventh-grade and eighth-grade English and math has declined each year, Dechter said.
In eighth-grade this year, only 28.6 percent of students are graduating. The figure was 32.2 percent in eighth grade in 1995, but fell to 27.5 percent in 2008. By ninth grade, the rate has fallen to 23.3 percent this year, compared to 27.4 percent and 27.8 percent in 2001, 1998 and 1995.
“So we’re not only adding students but also are adding them who are entering middle school and are already behind,” Dechter said.
Schools in the public system are struggling to fill the seats left behind by the decline in enrollment, she said. In one of the highest-poverty areas in Southern California, the only public high school that has an enrollment of 150-200 students is being forced to cut back on its special education classes.
“They’re not being able to provide the services they require,” Dechter said.
In Los Angeles last year, the number of students in high school dropped from 8,320 to 8,120, a 9.5 percent decrease