Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

The latest annual forecast by the California Department of Finance predicts K-12 schools will have nearly one million fewer students in 2031 than they did in 2015. That projected decline is already reflected in current statewide 1st grade enrollment that is already at the lowest level reported in the last 29 years.

Blame the loss on young adults called DINKs – “Dual Incomes – No Kids.” Many potential parents need 2 incomes to pay the mortgage and cannot afford to have more children. They, and their unborn babies, are the victims of the enormous cost of living in California.

Annual release of statewide birth data really tells the story. California births peaked with 613,000 in 1990. There were only 421,000 born in 2021. That is a 31% drop over the last 31 years.

Projecting school enrollment is really pretty simple. Count the number of babies born in 2022 and it tells us how many kids we will have in first grade six years from now. Want to know how many 2nd grade students we will have next year? Just count the number of 1st grade student we have this year. (There are a few little variances to consider but the core calculation is really easy to develop).

Visalia Unified, the largest district in the county, has followed statewide trends with declining births in zip codes 93277, 93291 and 93292. Their current 1st grade enrolment of just 1,943 students is already the smallest class in the last 19 years. They will be high school freshmen in 2031.

The district now has 8,100 students in their 4 largest high schools. My statistical projections forecast there will only be 7,700 in 2031. About 1,000 more will continue to attend the 3 alternative programs in VTech or Independent Study or Sequoia alternative high school.

Tulare County first grade enrollment is also at the lowest level in 20 years. The California Department of Finance predicts total K-12 enrollment in the county will drop by 5,000 students by 2031. Similarly, Fresno County first grade enrollment is the lowest in 15 years and total enrollment is projected to decline by over 12,000 students since peaking in 2019.

Comparing selected local trends in first grade enrollment in Tulare and Fresno Counties over the last 7 years: Dinuba is down 23%; Lindsay and Cutler-Orosi are both down 17%; Tulare is down 14%; Visalia Unified and Kings Canyon Unified, including Reedley, are both down 11%; Exeter is down 5%, Two districts had slight gains as Sanger grew 4% and Porterville is up 2%.

Losing nearly 1,000,000 students statewide, will have a dramatic impact on staffing needs. Districts will need about 45,000 fewer teachers than they have now. There will be similar losses in support staff.

Using the language of our times, educators now have a supply chain problem.


By Jerrold H. Jensen
Visalia, Ca. 93292

Letters to the editor are not news articles but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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