ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona public schools see enrollment decline amid coronavirus pandemic

Oct 23, 2020, 4:55 AM | Updated: 12:53 pm

PHOENIX — Fewer families are choosing to send their kids to K-12 public schools in Arizona during the coronavirus pandemic, according to enrollment numbers from the Arizona Department of Education.

Enrollment statewide is down 5% at district and charter schools compared to the end of the last school year. It’s also 4% lower than at this time last year. The biggest drop is among kindergartners, with 14% fewer students enrolled this year.

A spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Education said due to some difficulties in reporting, these are preliminary numbers and have not been finalized.

Because school funding is tied to enrollment, the drop could be costly for schools across the state at a time when many of them have expenses related to the pandemic.

“We have over 1.1 million students in the state, so when you talk about a 4% or 5% reduction of students, that means the school districts and charter schools will not be funded for those students,” Chuck Essigs, director of government relations for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, said.

Meanwhile, the state’s school voucher program that allows parents to use state funds to cover private school tuition or homeschooling is seeing substantial growth, which could be an indication of where students are going.

The Arizona Department of Education had projected enrollment in the Empowerment Scholarship Account program to be 8,400 students by the end of the year. As of last week, the number of active enrollments was already at 9,500.

Essigs said the drop in public school enrollment has the potential to cause “very serious issues for school funding.”

He also explained that a drop in enrollment doesn’t necessarily mean fewer costs for a school. For example, the costs to run a classroom, including a teacher’s salary, for the most part remain the same even after losing a few students. What changes is there are less funds available to cover those costs.

However, he said a grant program Gov. Doug Ducey created over the summer may help.

The Enrollment Stabilization Grant Program is meant to protect schools against budget shortfalls due to declining enrollment. The program allows school districts and charter schools to get at least 98% of the funding they got based on last year’s enrollment numbers.

“So under that provision, a school district’s loss of funding is minimized in that it couldn’t be greater than 2%,” Essigs said.

Schools experiencing enrollment increases could also get 5% more funding than last year.

The governor’s office has allocated $370 million for the Enrollment Stabilization Grant Program. The deadline to apply was Aug. 28.

Once school districts and charters submit their final 40th-day count enrollment data for this school year, which is how the funds will be calculated, the final awards will be computed and announced mid-November. The money will be disbursed soon after.

Enrollment declines could be a result of parents choosing to homeschool their kids because of the pandemic.

That’s what Nicole Guysi and her husband of Glendale chose for their 9-year-old daughter Brooke. She was born with a rare genetic condition that makes her immunocompromised, therefore, high risk for COVID-19.

“We did try virtual learning and it just was not feasible for our daughter,” Guysi said.

Because Brooke has progressive vision loss, Guysi said she and her husband worried it could worsen her vision.

They applied for the ESA program and were approved in August. The program allows parents to use state funds to cover private school tuition, homeschooling, tutoring services and other education-related expenses.

Guysi said the ESA funds help pay for a homeschool curriculum and a tutor for Brooke.

“I’m grateful that we have ESA and that we were able to find a tutor, because I really don’t know what we would have done without this option,” Guysi said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook Photo/Peoria Police Department)...
KTAR.com

18-year-old man dead after gun accidentally discharged in Peoria

An 18-year-old man died after a friend accidentally shot him in the chest while cleaning a gun in Peoria, authorities said Thursday.
18 hours ago
(AZDHS.gov Screenshot)...
Kevin Stone

Here’s how to make sense of changes to Arizona’s COVID-19 dashboard

The Arizona Department of Health Services rolled out a variety of changes to how it presents data on its COVID-19 dashboard this week, some that could be confusing without further explanation.
18 hours ago
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
Associated Press

Judge again rules Arizona Senate’s election review records to be made public

A judge has rejected the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate’s contention that it can withhold a raft of communications between its leaders and private contractors they hired to conduct an unprecedented review of the 2020 election results in the state’s most populous county.
18 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/The University of Arizona)...
Kevin Stone

ASU, UArizona, NAU announce COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees

Arizona’s three public universities announced Friday they will be requiring most employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8.
18 hours ago
(Screenshot/City of Tempe YouTube)...
KTAR.com

Explosion, fatal house fire in Tempe ruled ‘not accidental’

Authorities in Tempe said Friday an explosive house fire where two women were found dead this week was not accidental but stopped short of supplying any other conclusions.
18 hours ago
A Sri Lankan school student receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Oct. 15, 202...
KTAR.com

Arizona reports 2,399 new COVID-19 cases, 38 more deaths Friday

Arizona health officials on Friday reported 2,399 new COVID-19 cases and 38 additional deaths from the disease.
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sweet James

Best fall road trips to take on a motorcycle

Autumn in Arizona brings the beauty of color-changing leaves and a relief from summer heat. It’s one of the most pleasant times to explore the outdoors, especially on a motorcycle.
...
PNC Bank

How one organization supports early childhood literacy for the most vulnerable

Nearly two out of every three children in low-income communities don’t own a single children’s book, a fact that ultimately could have profound impacts even before entering kindergarten, according to Arizona nonprofit Southwest Human Development.
...
Albertsons

Grill like a pro this fall with tips from Albertsons

As the weather cools and football season kicks off, it’s a great time to fire up the grill and enjoy your favorite outdoor meals.
Arizona public schools see enrollment decline amid coronavirus pandemic