Florida will have fewer kids enrolled in traditional public schools in the coming years. That’s the consensus of the Education Enrollment Conference. The panel of state economists and legislative staffers is compiling projections for public schools over the next decade.
The reason for the enrollment forecast is money. The panel recommends school district renovation and construction budgets to the Legislature based on the enrollment projection.
After crunching the numbers, they don’t see a need for any new schools within the next five years. The student population is expected to slowly decrease starting this fall, so it looks as though schools will have sufficient classroom space.
Student enrollment in Florida’s traditional public schools is expected to be around 2.4 million this fall. The panel projected enrollment would shrink by 100,000 through 2017.
The dwindling numbers are at least partly because of the growing popularity of virtual schools and charter schools. Charters are public schools, but they are operated by private companies. Virtual schools are also public, but their students take courses online and don’t need space in a traditional classroom.
Some districts are expected to appeal the recommended amount, saying the growth estimates are too low.
Allyce Heflin, Budget Chief for the House Education Appropriations Committee, thinks Miami-Dade is one of the districts that might appeal.
“Miami tells us they need the capital outlay money because they need to build,” said Heflin. Another member said Miami-Dade may have pockets of growth but will be fine for years to come.
The slight drop in student enrollment doesn’t apply to every district. Some districts, like Osceola and Flagler, expect to see an increase in traditional students over the next decade.