The School Closure Crisis: A Challenge for Demographers

Jeanne Gobalet, Lapkoff & Gobalet Demographic Research, Inc.

Falling birth numbers after 1990 produced school enrollment declines nationwide. These declines, combined with funding difficulties, have resulted in many elementary schools closing, and by the end of the decade, middle and high school closures will follow. The number of California public schools closed in 2003 was four times the 2002 figure. This paper explores school closure patterns and their causes, with emphasis on California. Demographers can help decide whether school closures are warranted and which schools should be closed. We provide enrollment forecasts, by ethnicity if needed, to inform closure decisions. We analyze where students enroll versus where the live, as well as attendance-area forecasts showing which subareas of a school district are losing the most students. We help with housing forecasts, longitudinal student yield analyzes, and housing turnover studies. This paper provides case studies as well as explanations of demographic trends associated with school closure.

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Presented in Session 72: School Demography