Friday, December 28, 2018

Nashville student enrollment drops, again. This should be a wake-up call.

The Tennessean reported today that Nashville student enrollment drops, again. Enrollment dropped to 85,287 students in the 2018-19 school year. This is a drop of 115 students fewer than last year when enrollment was 85,399 students.  The 85,399 student enrolled in 2017-2018 was a drop of 1234 student from the  86,633 enrolled in the 2015-16 school year. The total drop form the number enrolled in 2015-2016 to 2018-2019 is 1346 students.

At the same time, the population in Nashville has been growing. We don't know exactly how many people live in Davidson County but the census bureau estimates that as of July 2017 there were 691,243.The census is only taken every ten years but the census bureau offers yearly estimates. July 2017 is the last estimate. The July 2014 estimate was 670,314.  I don't know how accurate those estimates are but one only has to drive down almost any street or maneuver in Nashville traffic to know they we are growing by leaps and bounds.  So in about the same time the population was increasing by about 21,000 people, school enrollment was dropping by about 1300. Something is wrong.

The schools board administration blames the enrollment decline on "gentrification."  I am not buying that explanation. Certainly the demographics are changing. Lower income people are moving out of many neighborhoods and more affluent people are moving in. However, density is increasing. Many lots with one house are being subdivided and two houses are taking their place.  If gentrification is the reason, it is that "gentry" are not going to send their kids to failing schools.

It may also be true that despite our growth there may be a decline in school age children. We need more data to know for sure.  Maybe most of the people moving to Nashville are childless couples.  If that is the case, that still is an indication that there is a serious problem with Nashville Schools.  The whole eleven county Metro Nashville Statistical Metropolitan Area is growing. It may be that people with school age children are choosing to live in surrounding counties where the schools are much better.  While Davidson County schools enrollment was shirking this year, Wilson County Schools grew by about 1,000 students. There is also massive growth in student enrollment in Williamson County where many schools are overcrowded.

I wish The Tennessean would have dug deeper and provided more insight on this story.  I would like to know if there is an increase in homeschooling and private school enrollment in Nashville.  If private schools are growing, are they growing  by leaps and bounds or experiencing modest growth. I would like for a reporter to interview parents who recently moved to the Nashville area and ask them if the poor quality of our public schools was a factor in where they chose to live.

These enrollment numbers should be a wake-up call.  People are voting with their feet and they are voting against Metro Schools.  When people no longer take pride in their public schools, they will be less civically involved.  They will be less inclined to support public schools.  Public school funding will take a back seat to other funding priorities.  Also, as is so often the case in large popular cities, there will be a greater social gap and cultural gap between the well off, and the less well off.  When people look at the public schools as the schools for only poor people it exacerbates a class division.  When public schools become the schools for the lower class, this leads to a lessened opportunity for upward mobility.

For those who can afford to send their child to a private school, this decline in public schools may be of little concern, but to the person of limited mean, worse public schools may mean their child falls from middle class status to lower class status with fewer options for advancement. Their circle of friends will be made up of people of lower income and the values they encounter will be different than when the schools have children from a mixture of socioeconomic backgrounds.

Something needs to be done. I would start by firing Director of Schools Shawn Joseph. I would then reinstate those programs such as International Baccalaureate and advanced placement classes that made public schools attractive to parent who want the best for their kids who may be tempted to leave the public schools system if their child cannot get a good education there.  We also need good people to run for school board who favor school choice and excellence rather than equal mediocrity. We need people who favor more money flowing to the class room rather than the administrative bureaucracy.  We need school board members more concerned with quality and discipline rather than social engineering and political correctness. 

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