Enrollment in New York schools over the last decade has declined, with the COVID-19 pandemic hastening the trend, according to an analysis released on Thursday by a state education advocacy organization. 

Pupil enrollment has dropped in schools across the country, but the largest enrollment loss in the nation between 2019-20 and 2021-22 was seen in New York, the group The Education Trust-NY said.

Traditional public schools and private schools have both seen a drop in enrollment. Homeschooling and public charter schools have increased, howevver. 

Public schools saw a drop in enrollment from kids in low-income households and kids from non-low income backgrounds. Meanwhile, public charter schools saw a 26% increase in low-income kids and a 40% increase in students from non-low income households. 

Every region of New York saw a decline in public school enrollment between the 2017-18 and 2021-22 school years. Traditional public schools and private school enrollment declines in students were largest during that time period. 

The district with the largest percentage declines of the biggest school districts were Rochester and New York City. 

“Unquestionably, the ongoing pandemic is affecting the educational experiences of students and families, and this analysis suggests that impact may be prompting parents to make new choices for their children,” said Dia Bryant, executive director of The Education Trust–New York. “Our state would benefit from state and local leaders further examining why parents are making these choices, and how all schools can do a better job offering students and families the resources and experiences they most value in an education system – particularly in this moment where schools across New York State are recovering from years of interrupted instruction and working to find innovative ways to reengage students and their families.”

New York schools were among the first in the country to close in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic began. Remote instruction proved to be a major challenge, especially for students who lacked adequate technology. 

This year, Gov. Kathy Hochul has once again proposed a sharp increase in direct aid to schools as part of a broader $227 billion budget plan. Schools have also benefitted from federal pandemic aid in the last several years. 

But education advocates in New York have urged the money be spent on programs meant to improve mental health and deal with learning loss as a result of the pandemic.