Illinois public school enrollment continues to drop

Illinois public school enrollment continues to drop

Frustrated with COVID-19 disruptions and remote learning, more Illinois parents are pursing non-public school options.

Chicago Public Schools students recently missed five days of class because of a work stoppage by the Chicago Teachers Union, marking the third CTU strike in just over two years.

CPS students aren’t alone in experiencing disrupted learning. Public schools in Peoria and East St. Louis added another week of winter break.

Nobody knows this trend better than parents, who’ve begun to explore options outside of public school. Statewide, pre-K and kindergarten had the biggest enrollment drop from 2020 to spring 2021, 17.5% and 8%, respectively.

The Illinois State Board of Education at the start of the school year announced statewide enrollment in public schools was down 3.5%.

Time4Learning, a national developer for homeschool curriculum, said over 3,400 students in the Chicago area signed up at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. Crain’s Chicago Business reported homeschooling is up 200% in Chicago since 2019.

Private school isn’t in the budget for many low-income families, but they can pursue tax-credit scholarships to help pay for their children’s education. It doesn’t cover pre-K education, but it’d be wise for lawmakers to expand the program to meet growing demand and get some of the 26,000 students off the waitlist.

A trio of bills in the Illinois General Assembly could do that, and let students from low-income homes experience learning environments that might better fit their needs.

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