New York City Is Hiding Its K-12 Enrollment Decline
What if New York City’s K-12 enrollment numbers for government-run schools are so embarrassingly low that the city is deliberately suppressing them to avoid criticism for how it has handled school policies during COVID-19?
That’s the blunt question being asked this week not just by libertarian school-choice advocates or ornery local tabloids, but by the Democratic Party heavyweights heading up the City Council’s Education Committee and the largest local teachers union.
“Respectfully,” City Council education honcho Mark Treyger asked Department of Education (DOE) Deputy Chancellor Donald Conyers at a hearing Wednesday, “how many students do we have currently enrolled in our public school system?”
Seems like such a simple question. But: “And I will respectfully say to you,” Conyers replied, “that I don’t have that number to give you at this moment.”
The moment of DOE number-delivery has been delayed almost as much as Top Gun: Maverick. On September 14, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the first-day-of-school attendance rate from the day before was a scientific-sounding 82.4 percent—”clearly better than some people feared or thought might happen, but not as high as the last time we had a first day of school before the pandemic, when it was about 90 percent.” Upon cross-examination, however, de Blasio admitted that he was unable to produce either the numerator or the denominator for that particular calculation. “The city’s Department of Education is hiding important information about school enrollment and attendance,” the New York Daily News concluded in an editorial.
NYC Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter promised reporters at the press conference that, “As soon as we get to the point where we have full attendance taken across our system, we’ll share those numbers.” Three-plus weeks later, that point has been put off to October 31, and only then because that’s the deadline for reporting enrollment to the state.
“They know how many kids didn’t show up,” United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew charged at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “They are hiding this….We’re playing this game of, ‘I’m not going to tell you what’s wrong because politically it might not work for us.'”
The local politics of school-enrollment numbers are as complicated as they are unnecessary for non-New Yorkers to grok, though the reality of families continuing to flee government-operated schools seems likely to challenge policy makers and infuriate taxpayers from coast to coast as the 2021–22 data roll in. In the Big Apple, teachers unions
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