The Empty Classroom Syndrome

Empty Classroom

The discussion brief describes a crisis of declining enrollments on a district-by-district basis in schools throughout the Hudson Valley through the end of the decade.

In the report, Pattern examines future enrollment projections for 114 public school districts in Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester Counties. In 94 of the districts (82%), projections show enrollments that are either flat or in decline. Of the declining districts, half are predicted to shrink by 10% and more from their peak enrollments over the past 20 years.

The report is a follow-up on the Pattern for Progress 2012 report "Closed Schools, Open Minds" and takes the story of closing schools a number of steps further by looking at enrollment projections through 2012. Using projections from Cornell University's Program on Applied Demographics, the report paints a valley-wide picture of enrollment decline for the vast majority of school districts. The report also continues the discussion of finding best ways to reuse school buildings and it questions the widely held notion that a scarcity of state funding has played a big role in the conversation about the need to shut down schools.

In one of the more surprising findings, the report details how state aid from 2000 to 2010, in most cases, rose even as enrollments declined in the majority of districts. This increase in state aid in a region where school enrollment has and will decrease helps to explain why the cost of public education in New York State leads the nation.

The report is accompanied by a guest column written by retired school superintendent Dr. Kenneth Hilton at the invitation of Pattern on the topic of declining enrollments, closing schools and seeking solutions to these challenges.

2013 School Report FINAL.pdf1.37 MB
Dr. Ken Hilton Companion Article.pdf336.96 KB
State Aid to Public School Dist. with enrollments 2000-2010.pdf733.07 KB