The children that never were

A lot has been made of the recent drop in public-school enrollments. Get ready for the demographic cliff.

Enrollment in Minnesota public schools dropped each of the past two years, because of the pandemic-related shutdowns and other factors. Those students shifted to private schools or homeschooling.

Now comes a bigger crisis, as a birth dearth in recent years has started to accelerate.

The number of births in Minnesota was holding steady between 69,000 and 70,000 per year for several years during the last decade. The drop in recent years reflects national trends.

Nevertheless, one year’s births turns into the kindergarteners of five years later.

In 2025, schools will be missing about 6,000 kindergarteners, statewide. In 2025, K-5 elementary schools will be missing about 13,000 students, statewide. The numbers will continue to compound as this cohort moves through middle school, and then high school.

Assuming a student-teacher ratio of 17:1, having 6,000 fewer students shows us translates into a need for 350 fewer teachers, statewide.

The state’s chronic teacher shortage may be on the way to solving itself. Alternatively, the system may be able to more easily accommodate smaller class sizes.

Much like receding waters may uncover all kinds of things we never knew were there below the surface, so may a receding population.