Number of students in Broward public schools declines for third straight year

South Florida Sun-Sentinel | By Lisa J. Huriash | September 6, 2022

The numbers of Broward students continued its downward trend this school year, according to public records.

This year there were 205,743 students who showed up for the first day of school. That’s a decrease of 4,420 students in public schools grades K-12 from last school year.

The number of students at the county’s charter schools increased however. There were 48,940 students, which is up 1,318 students from last year’s count. A district memo points out no new charter schools opened for this school year and two charter schools closed during the past school year.

District officials did not respond to a request for their theories about the reasons for the departures, although they did say enrollment numbers are still fluctuating, “which is normal at the start of the school year.”

There will be another count on Sept. 12, the first Monday following the Labor Day holiday, to try to see if more students surface.

Historically, a drop in enrollment could mean students moving to other districts, private schools, home-schooling — or just missing without explanation.

Whatever the reason, this is the third school year in a row Broward County has been losing students.

In last year’s school year, which started in August 2021, Broward lost 4,694 K-12 students from the previous year. That was the second-highest drop in the previous 15 years, surpassed only by the 2020-2021 school year, when enrollment plummeted by 7,255.

But Broward’s neighbors to the north and south are both showing an increase in students. Palm Beach County calculations for grades K-12 show 162,834 students, which is an increase of 227 students from the previous year.

In Miami-Dade, first day numbers showed 299,988 students — an increase of 5,457 from the year before. The District ran another count Sept. 1 for a more accurate reflection on enrollment and reported 324,961 students, which is an increase of 4,765 from the the year before.

Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco said the reasons for the continued lower numbers stemmed from many factors, particularly the high cost of rent.

“The cost of living in Florida is super high,” she said. “I’m watching neighbors with children move out of my community all the time.”

Another reason, she said, is some parents opt for a longer summer, erroneously thinking school starts after Labor Day, like in other parts of the country.

Last year, to try to find missing students, union volunteers, including guidance counselors and social workers, made phone calls and knocked on doors of the homes of children who hadn’t returned.

The result was recouping hundreds of children, Fusco said, which meant “millions” in otherwise lost revenue for the district.

Some families “didn’t realize schools were reopen,” others needed convincing it was “safe to come back.”

Fusco said she’s asked the School District for another dedicated day to find missing students, but has not received a response. “We’ve been asking for it again this year, we’re still waiting,” she said.

School District officials said Friday they will be “resuming the re-engagement project this school year.”

Staff writer Scott Travis contributed to this report.

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