What led to Utah’s K-12 enrollment dropping for the first time in 20 years

Courtney Tanner:

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a shift that hasn’t been seen in Utah’s public schools in 20 years: The number of students enrolled has declined.

Some parents have started home-schooling their kids. Others have opted to keep their 5-year-olds out of kindergarten for now. As a result of those and other decisions, the state’s anticipated 7,000 increase in students this fall evaporated. In reality, the school population is instead down roughly 2,000.

A change like this, even if it is temporary, has huge ramifications.

“It’s cause for real concern,” said Mark Huntsman, chair of the Utah Board of Education, which reviewed the preliminary fall head counts for K-12 during a special meeting Tuesday.

The enrollment numbers dictate how much money districts get each year from the state. Put simply, fewer students means less funding. And with a drop as big as this year’s, that could mean losing millions of dollars for public school districts.