(The Center Square) — A recent audit shows Louisiana’s K-12 public school enrollment was 658,118 in the 2021-22 school year, down from a peak of about 712,000 in 2013.
Louisiana Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack last week issued an informational brief on racial demographics in the state’s public and private schools for the 2021-22 school year that counted a total of 775,583 K-12 students, excluding homeschooled students and those in the state’s Special School District (schools for the deaf and the visually impaired).
“Of the 658,118 K-12 students attending public schools, approximately 71% were considered economically disadvantaged,” the report read.
That figure comes in slightly below the projected total public school enrollment of 686,300 for the current school year, according to Department of Education data cited by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Both figures mark a significant decline in the student population that seemingly accelerated during the pandemic.
Louisiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Cade Brumley earlier this month highlighted a more than 2% decline in the public school population between October 2020 and October 2022, or about 14,625 students. In total, about 34,000 students have left public schools since the pandemic began, equating to a nearly 5% loss.
NCES analysis shows Louisiana public school enrollment was at 784,757 in 1990, before declining to about 654,526 in 2005. Enrollment then trended upward to about 712,000 in 2013, before again falling gradually to about 697,900 in 2020, according to the data.
Louisiana’s public school enrollment loss since the pandemic is similar to the broader trend nationally. K-12 public school enrollment across the U.S. fell by an unprecedented 1.1 million students or roughly 2% in the first full year of the pandemic, followed by another 130,000 decline in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
That figure has since rebounded some to a projected enrollment of about 52.1 million students in 2023, or nearly 11 million more students than in 1990.
The LLA brief released in Louisiana last week was designed to break down the racial demographics in traditional public, charter, and private schools during the 2021-22 school year.
“Most students of all races attend traditional public schools,” auditors wrote. “However, white students are the most likely to attend private schools, Black students are the most likely to attend charter schools, and Hispanics are the most likely to attend traditional public schools.”
The LLA estimated 23.7% of white students attended private schools, compared to 5.8% of black students, 7.2% of Hispanic students, and 16.9% of other racial minorities. Charter schools enrolled 4.8% of white students, 19.1% of black students, 13.5% of Hispanic students, and 8.9% of other racial minorities, the LLA found.
The report showed 71.5% of white students, 75.1% of black students, 79.3% of Hispanic students, and 74.2% of other racial minorities attended traditional public schools in 2021-22.