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Students and parents arrive at Jacob Beidler Elementary School in Garfield Park on the West Side on the first day of school for Chicago Public Schools, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.

Students and parents arrive at Jacob Beidler Elementary School in Garfield Park on the West Side on the first day of school for Chicago Public Schools, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.

Ashlee Rezin

CPS enrollment stabilizes for first time in a decade

In a significant development for Chicago Public Schools, enrollment has stabilized this fall for the first time in over a decade, according to preliminary data analyzed by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The district had lost students for 11 consecutive years and last year lost its status as the nation’s third-largest public school system. CPS enrollment has dropped by more than 80,000 kids in that time.

Various factors have contributed to the exodus of students, from low birth rates, a decrease in immigration and families leaving the city, experts say. And while the city has seen thousands of new migrant children arrive in the past year, officials say the reasons for the turnaround are also not straightforward.

“We will offer more analysis and context to our enrollment figures later this month but it appears the District is continuing the trend of seeing more English Learners, more Diverse Learners and more Students in Temporary Living Situations,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said in a statement.

“We are pleased to note that this is the first time in a decade that District enrollment has remained stable and we are honored and privileged to serve each and every student,” he said.

Preliminary data obtained by the Sun-Times shows more than 322,000 students are enrolled at CPS this school year, around the same as last year. That figure may fluctuate as the district’s data teams analyze potential inaccuracies, but it won’t change significantly.

The data analyzed by the Sun-Times comes from individual school enrollments listed on the CPS website, which is regularly updated. And the data is also publicly available on the city of Chicago’s data portal.

CPS tallies its enrollment on the 20th day of school every year to allow for late-registering kids and provide a fuller picture. But officials rarely release enrollment figures close to that date — they usually spend a few weeks examining the data before making it public.

Chalkbeat Chicago first reported this year’s preliminary enrollment data.

It’s unclear yet whether the stabilization is temporary or signs of more permanent, structural progress.

CPS has tried to accommodate thousands of new migrant students, and a senior mayoral aide suggested over the summer that those new families might turn around CPS’ enrollment slide.

There are a little over 6,000 more English learner students this year compared to last year, data shows. But officials say not all those kids are from asylum-seeking families who have newly arrived in the city. English learners account for almost a quarter of all students enrolled in CPS, at around 78,200 kids.

The number of special education students has also increased by about 2,500, those kids now making up 16% of the district.

But continuing a trend over the past few years, there are about 18,000 fewer students from low-income families this year, preliminary data shows. They now make up 67% of all CPS students, down from 73% last year.

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