Pasadena Unified Enrollment Sinks 1,170 Students Over Past 5 Years

The District paces state and national trends, including lower birthrates; lower numbers mean less State revenue for schools

Published : Tuesday, August 13, 2019 | 4:56 AM

Pasadena Unified School District welcomed an estimated 16,088 students back to school Monday, 327 fewer than last year. The District’s continuing student body erosion has seen enrollment shrink by 1,259 students since 2014.

The loss of students to the District is significant because state funding of public schools is based upon students’ average daily attendance.

A District official said that each student provides approximately $10,100 in state funding per year. In dollars and cents, the impact of the declining enrollment translates into the loss of approximately $9.4 million state funding over the past five years.

Add to that another $3.2 million estimated to be lost in the coming year from this year’s decline, and the District has suffered a total loss of $12.6 million in on-going funding since 2014.

An increase in regular state funding by $322 per student for the 19-20 school year has offset this year’s loss somewhat, officials said.

Said PUSD Board president Lawrence Torres in an e-mail, “Like most school districts in the area, we too are suffering from declining enrollment. Prior to last year, we had seen our numbers, at least since 2015, decrease on a much smaller scale than was projected. I believe last year’s larger drop was due to cuts in our Pre-K program, as well as the opening of another charter school in the area.”

Torres is optimistic about the District’s goals, however, despite the numbers, saying, “We are doing our best to put in place a quality educational program for every student who comes through our doors.”

Torres also said he is  “quite pleased” with the District’s approach of signature programs combined with district-wide open enrollment.

 “It’s an approach that truly allows families a choice of a schooling experience tailored to the individual needs of each child,” he continued.

Torres added, “While the loss of revenue is always disturbing, we will continue to put forth the best educational program we possibly can for the benefit of the children in our care.”

While Pasadena Unified will see an additional $7 million in revenue this year thanks to the 2018 passage of sales tax Measures I and J, that money is prioritized for maintaining the District’s reserve funds, as required by State law.

But Pasadena is not the only local school district, by far, to see an enrollment drop. According to a March 2019 report by the Public Policy Institute, 61 of 79 districts in Los Angeles County have seen drops in enrollment.

Los Angeles Unified has lost 34,000 students, while Long Beach Unified lost almost 7,600 students. Seven districts in LA County, with more than 10,000 students, lost between 10% and 15% of enrollment.

California schools have seen 34,135 fewer students enrolled in 2019 compared to last, said a March report in www.edsource.org.

According to the report by Theresa Harrington,  California has experienced an overall 0.8 percent decline in student enrollment, from 6.2 million in 2014-15 to 6.19 million in 2018-19.

There are simply fewer children being born in California and the U.S., say official numbers. The current U.S. birth rate is the lowest since 1986. 2018 marked the fourth consecutive year that birth numbers have dropped, according to the provisional birthrate report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Samantha Tran, senior managing director for education at the nonprofit student advocacy group Children Now, only 1 out of every 5 Californians will be a child in 2030, which would mean a significant drop in state-wide school revenues.

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