Miami-Dade becomes nation’s third-largest school district, surpassing Chicago

Miami Herald | By Sommer Brugal | Updated April 27, 2023

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the third-largest school district in the country, according to numbers released this month by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Chicago Public Schools has long held the third rank, but according to the agency, housed within the federal Department of Education, Miami-Dade Public Schools enrollment this year reached a total of 319,612 students, about 4,800 more students than Chicago’s 314,784. The total number includes charter school students, which account for about 25% of the district’s overall student enrollment.

The ranking change comes after years of declining enrollment in Miami-Dade schools, but the district had a recent uptick during this school year because of an influx of immigrant students.

At the School Board meeting last week, the news — announced by Superintendent Jose Dotres — was met with cheers and applause from board members and those in the audience. The district had been the nation’s fourth-largest in the country.

“This is a historic milestone collectively embraced by the (Miami-Dade) School Board, school leaders, and the entire (district) community,” Dotres later said in a news release. “We are committed to ensuring that Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the best choice for all students.”

New York City Public Schools remains the largest district in the country, with 804,530 students, and the Los Angeles Unified School District following in second, with 435,958 students. Clark County School District in Nevada and Broward County Public Schools in Florida, follow Chicago Public Schools for the fifth and sixth largest districts, with 306,389 students and 250,496 students, respectively, according to the NCES data.

During the pandemic, from 2019-20 to 2020-21 school years, the district’s enrollment fell from more than 347,000 to 334,400 students, a reduction of nearly 12,700 students, in part because of families choosing homeschooling, moving away from the area or pivoting to private schools. In the last two decades, enrollment has dropped by more than 51,000 students, according to district records. In the 2002-03 school year, enrollment was 371,482.

Still, despite the overall decline in recent years, the district this school year reported an influx of immigrant students. Between the start of the school year — Aug. 17, 2022 — and the beginning of January, 14,723 students enrolled in the district, records show. Nearly 10,000 students immigrated from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, reflecting the surge of immigrants coming from those four countries over a nearly six-month period.

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