The Great Dropout: Why 1.4 Million Children Left Public Schools in 2020 and Where They Went

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Over a million children left public schools in 2020, a migration that came on the heels of school lockdowns and masking requirements, and was hastened by increased parental dissatisfaction with K-12 education.

Enrollment in U.S. public schools declined by 1.4 million students between fall 2019 and fall 2020, dipping to 49.4 million, a loss of nearly 3 percent, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The decline may be closer to 2 million, according to a report by Education Next showing that traditional public school enrollment as a percentage of all school enrollment declined sharply between 2020 and 2022.

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