Oregon public schools hemorrhaged students during pandemic. Here’s where they went. – oregonlive.com:

Oregon’s public schools have hemorrhaged students since the onset of the pandemic, leaving thousands of children outside the bounds of a system that is supposed to be both a safety net and launch pad.

The state’s enrollment losses, which total 30,000, or 5%, were the second highest in the country, according to Stanford University’s data-driven Big Local News project. Only Mississippi lost a larger share.

Roughly half of the students who left Oregon public schools switched to private schools, census figures show. Smaller slices of the loss are due to families moving out of state and to a gently declining birth rate, experts say.

It’s almost like student violence, lack of accountability, nose-diving educational standards, etc. are encouraging families to send their kids elsewhere.

In addition, about 7,000 more students are now homeschooled with minimal oversight from state regulators, while 2,000 more are attending online schools, where student-teacher ratios can be twice as high as in brick-and-mortar ones. Those options offer fewer classroom supports, such as reading specialists or school counselors.

And hundreds, or even a few thousand, mostly high school-aged students simply vanished from the system altogether. Some prematurely joined the full-time workforce while others have been flattened by mental health struggles, housing insecurity or substance abuse, educators and administrators say.

The quality of home schools are obviously variable, but I think the implication that they’re automatically worse than public schools is unfair. Ditto the implication about online schools. 

Statewide, the share of kindergarten-age children attending public school dipped to historic lows in 2020, and private enrollment of school-aged children rose to historic highs, said Ethan Sharygin, director of the Population Research Center at Portland State University.

I do not regret sending our kids to private kinder and elementary. If I had to do it again today, I would make the same choice. 

Among other Oregon districts that saw growth, one stands out: the tiny Prairie City school district in Eastern Oregon’s Grant County, which saw an astounding five-fold-plus jump in enrollment, adding 919 students. (The population of the entire city is only 909.)

The reason? The school district began sponsoring Oregon Connections Academy, a virtual public charter school overseen by a nonprofit board that contracts with the national company Connections Education, which in turn is owned by Pearson, the world’s largest textbook company. Its teachers are not required to belong to a union and don’t have to live in Oregon.

Statewide online charter schools have grown by 14% in recent years. For better or for worse, I would not be surprised if charter schools were an increasing part of public education in Oregon.