One of my guilty pleasures is hunting down fellow West Coast émigrés — my church and children’s school are full of them — to compare notes and trade blue state horror stories. Their anecdotes are not only consistent with my own personal experience, but they’re increasingly bearing out in nationwide data on both interstate migration and public-school enrollment.
As the developing picture comes into focus, it seems extraordinary that a population who voted in 2020 with unprecedented enthusiasm for the Democratic Party has simultaneously fled with equal gusto the states, cities, and public school systems managed by the Democrats.
Population data released by the Census Bureau at the end of 2021 indicated that a massive demographic shift was underway. Nine out of 10 of the states (including the District of Columbia) with the highest numeric population decline between 2020 and 2021 are controlled by Democrats. The greatest exodus was from New York, California, and Illinois. Democrat-run cities are also bleeding residents, with New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago topping the list.
By contrast, during that same period, the states with the largest net domestic migration gains were Republican-run Florida, Texas, and Arizona. The top three cities for numeric growth were San Antonio, Phoenix, and Fort Worth. Data provided by U-Haul and LinkedIn reveal similar trends.
For anyone during this period who packed up their homes, picked up their families, and took off across the country in search of safety, space, and sanity, the census data merely confirmed their own decision-making process and encouraged them that they weren’t alone.
Now, research by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) reveals that the major cities that experienced pandemic-era population decline lost families at an even faster pace. From July 2020 to July 2021, the number of children under 5 in large urban counties fell by 3.7 percent. New York County lost 9.5 percent of its under-5 population. Los Angeles county lost 5.6 percent, and King County (Seattle) lost 4.1 percent. According to the researchers, these findings suggest that “the shoe is yet to drop” in K-12 school districts.
We already have some idea of how it’s panning out. Public school enrollment has reportedly dropped by 4 percent over the last two years. That’s a shortfall of 2 million students. Not surprisingly, the areas that topped the list for population loss are experiencing significant enrollment declines, with elementary school enrollment bearing the brunt of the collapse.
Public school enrollment has plummeted in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Boston. In Portland, an estimated 20 percent fewer students were expected to enroll in elementary school this fall. In Seattle, there was a 6.4 percent enrollment drop over the past two years; statewide pre-K and kindergarten enrollment fell by a staggering 22 percent in a single year. California’s public school system lost as many as 110,000 students last year.
While it makes sense that the jurisdictions hemorrhaging residents would simultaneously see a drop in school enrollment, the top net migration states, Texas, Florida, and Arizona, have also seen a significant decline. The drop is spread across multiple counties and school districts of various sizes throughout the state. What’s more, their numbers follow a pattern.
In all three states, enrollment nosedived in the 2020-21 school year, much as it did throughout the country. Numbers then rebounded in the subsequent school year but in no state did enrollment return to 2018-19 levels. Grades eight to 12, almost without exception, saw an increase from both the pandemic slump and pre-pandemic numbers.
Elementary school enrollment, however, tells a different story. Across all three states, 2021-22 enrollment for kindergarten to grade seven was significantly down compared with 2018-19. In Texas, there were roughly 11,000 fewer third graders enrolled. That single cohort lost about 6,500 students since 2019. In Florida, approximately 11,000 fewer fourth graders were enrolled, and 5,500 had exited that cohort since 2019. Just under 6,000 fewer first graders were enrolled in Florida and just under 3,000 fewer in Arizona. Arizona lost more than 6,500 sixth graders and more than 7,000 fifth graders. Texas is short a breathtaking 27,500 fifth graders and 17,000 sixth graders.
It would seem then that families, particularly those with elementary school children, are leaving not only blue zones in disproportionate numbers but are ditching the public education system in droves. The situation is so dire that outlets such as NPR and The New York Times are scratching their heads and coolly speculating as to where all the students have gone and the reasons behind this seismic shift.
In terms of “where” the kids have gone, there have been indications of a rise in private school enrollment and homeschooling. As for the more important “why,” several theories are being tossed around. Some point to the rising cost of living and housing costs. Others attribute the change to declining birth rates.
Most blame the pandemic. Covid lockdowns and masking madness certainly had a role to play. The Federalist recently reported on a study that found that public school districts with tighter Covid restrictions suffered larger enrollment losses. That said, in South Carolina, which ranked among the highest states for percentage growth according to census data, and where Gov. Henry McMaster forced school districts to re-open five days a week for the 2020-21 school year, public school enrollment in 2021-22 was below pre-pandemic levels in all grades from pre-K to sixth.
There is another possibility, one you won’t hear the intelligentsia pontificating on. It could be that parents have cottoned on to the fact that their school districts are acting as a united front operation for the Democratic Party and its perverted, anti-family, anti-Christian agenda and are getting out. Indeed, if anything can be gleaned from the support for Gov. Ron De Santis’s recently passed parental rights in school legislation, from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s 2021 defeat of his Democratic opponent, Terry “parents shouldn’t be telling schools what they should teach” McAuliffe, and from the recent electoral overhaul of leftist-controlled school boards in Florida, it’s that parents have lost confidence in the public school system.
Parents appear to be fed up with schools that cover up brutal rape allegations by gender-fluid students, promote bigotry and pseudoscience, discriminate against children and teachers based on race, and think math is racist. Parents may be wary of schools that declare war on the nuclear family and disrupt the so-called oppressive “heteronormative system.” Perhaps parents are sickened by schools that covertly groom students, allow children as young as pre-school to “change” their names and gender identity without parental permission, and foist pornographic curriculum on innocent young minds.
When the mask slipped, and union hacks plotted and schemed with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Attorney General Merrick Garland to target parents who objected to any of the above as domestic terrorists, a narrative the New Jersey chapter of the National Education Association is still pushing, families probably didn’t like what they saw. Maybe parents are leveraging their influence and power not by storming school board meetings but by simply opting out of a garbage system and seeking more wholesome and academically rigorous schooling environments.
The outlines are still too vague to describe with certainty the portrait of America being depicted by these population and enrollment data. But as the image becomes clearer, it looks like a widespread rejection of the Democrats’ vision for America, from the states and cities they control, right down to the public schools their Marxist foot soldiers have infiltrated. Americans don’t want what these deranged ideologues are forcing on them and are voting with their feet, with parents of young children leading the way.