Chicago Public Schools have lost 25,000 students since COVID-19 hit

Chicago Public Schools have lost 25,000 students since COVID-19 hit

As enrollment declines CPS may lose its spot as the third-largest school district nationally, yet spending increases continue.

Students keep leaving the Chicago Public Schools system. Enrollment in CPS has declined by nearly 25,000 students since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a WBEZ analysis of data from CPS’s website.

This fall alone CPS reported decreased enrollment by 10,000 students.

The recent spike in outmigration from CPS may cause the district to lose its spot as the nation’s 3rd largest school district. Currently, Miami-Dade County Schools serve approximately 334,000 students, compared to the 330,000 students enrolled in Chicago Public Schools this year. Prior to the pandemic, Chicago Public Schools served more than 341,000 students.

Despite shrinking enrollment, the Chicago Board of Education approved a $9.3 billion budget for Chicago Public Schools, an increase in spending of nearly $1 billion from the previous year.

CPS has been losing students for years. Based on data from the 2020 Census, roughly 76,000 children have moved from Chicago since 2010, accounting for nearly all of the 74,000 drop in CPS enrollment during the past decade. Since 2000, about 200,000 fewer children live in the city.

Last spring, the district laid off 562 educators; 272 teachers and 290 non-teacher employees. Last year, CPS laid off nearly 290 teachers, 72% of which were rehired to other full-time positions in the district.

This year, CPS hired 2,000 new permanent employees using temporary federal COVID-19 relief.

Some experts worry that cyclical layoffs have adverse consequences for student outcomes. A 2013 study found that higher teacher turnover in New York City led to worse scores in math and reading. The effects were amplified in Black and under-performing students.

Laila McKinney, a senior at King College Prep in Chicago’s South side said she remembers crying when she found out her favorite teacher had been laid off. “It broke my heart. You develop relationships with these teachers,” Laila told reporters at Chalkbeat Chicago.

Student engagement continues to be a concern at CPS. The pandemic heightened this issue, as 49,000 students failed to log on to remote learning during the first day of school in 2020. By the end of the 2020 school year, 559 students were considered off the grid.

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