LA Unified Enrollment to Drop 30 Percent by 2031

LA Unified Enrollment to Drop 30 Percent by 2031
Students walk to their classrooms at a public middle school in Los Angeles, on Sept. 10, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
Micaela Ricaforte

LOS ANGELES—Enrollment in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is expected to drop 30 percent in the next decade, forcing district officials to make a series of tough decisions on campus closures and employment.

Student enrollment in LAUSD has been falling at a rate of about 2.8 percent per year since it hit its enrollment peak with 737,000 students in 2002.
However, a May 17 Board of Education report (pdf) predicted that after 2022, the district’s enrollment will begin to decrease by 3.6 percent annually—from about 437,000 in 2022 to 309,000 by 2031.

Because state funding is based on average attendance and enrollment, the district will likely see a drop in funding in the coming years.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the board during the meeting that a “perfect storm” of declining enrollment and funding will brew future hardships for the district.

“Los Angeles Unified is facing an alarming convergence and acceleration of enrollment decline and the expiration of one-time state and federal dollars, as well as ongoing and increasing financial liabilities,” Carvalho said, adding that there is “not an easy path toward financial stability.”

The district has already begun to see impacts of the enrollment drop, with a few schools in the district facing the possibility of closing or downsizing based on enrollment numbers.

Both Trinity Street Elementary School in South Central LA and Pio Pico Middle School in Mid-City have seen their enrollment decline dramatically in the past two decades—from about 1,800 at its highest to roughly 300 this year.

Earlier this year, both schools learned LAUSD is considering shutting down their schools to let other growing schools take over their campuses.

Around the same time, LAUSD proposed Orville Wright Middle School in Westchester—whose enrollment declined from about 700 in 2016 to roughly 500 in the 2020–2021 school year—downsize to a smaller campus to let a charter school take over their current campus.

However, LAUSD has not made a final decision on any of the above schools, and all schools currently remain open.

Meanwhile, the local teacher’s union, United Teachers of LA, is seeking a 20 percent raise over the next two years, citing the high cost of living in California.

The union’s proposed negotiations also include additional bumps in pay for teachers with advanced degrees, up to $2,000 reimbursement for credentialing and classes taken while employed by the district, and a $20,000 competitive raise in pay for school nurses.

In addition, the union proposes reduced class size and a reduction in the ratio of students to counselors, despite the district’s ongoing teacher shortage.

This comes as Carvalho said April 26 the district has temporarily filled the roughly 420 teacher vacancies in the district with credentialed, non-teaching district staff through June.
This school year LAUSD also hired 2,336 new teachers, among whom more than three-quarters were not fully credentialed by the state to teach, the district reported during a March 29 Board of Education meeting.

Over the next nine years, LA County expects to see a 19 percent population decrease, while the state projects a nine percent drop, according to the board report.

A spokesperson for LAUSD did not respond to a request for comment by press time.