ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)– Over a two year period, Empire Center data shows statewide enrollment of all public schools has decreased by five percent.


“To give a sense of perspective, over the course of the past decade, there has been a loss of 200,000 in enrollment from the public schools. But just over the last two years, there has been a decline of well over 100,000,” said Peter Warren, Director of Research at the Empire Center.


He said while the Empire Center doesn’t completely know why there is a decrease in enrollment, factors such as people leaving the state and a decline in kids under the age of 18 play a role. This is impacting regions such as the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes.

While there is an overall drop in kids attending public school, charter school enrollment has gone up.

“Rochester has a significant percentage of students in charter schools and over the last two years, there was a 5.5 percent increase in the charter school enrollment in Rochester,” explained Warren. “And in Upstate over all, there was an increase in about 11 percent.”


Warren said he believes this has something to do with the way public schools have responded during this pandemic.


When asked about the decline in public school enrollment, Emily DeSantis, a spokesperson for the New York State Education Department of stated,


“While there may be a variety of pandemic and non-pandemic-related factors for the enrollment decline, we cannot speculate on what specifically caused the decline.”


The New York State Education Department said the 2021-2022 enrollment data is still preliminary and that you cannot compare final enrollment data for previous years with preliminary enrollment figures.


However, the Empire Center disagrees based on enrollment data from last year.

“The final data was very similar to the preliminary data,” said Warren. “And indeed, there was a 2.4 percent drop just during that first year of the pandemic.”