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The Missing Children Of Texas’ Public Education Schools

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A new study sheds light on the hundreds of thousands of students around the country who have disappeared from public schools. The absence of over 230,000 students in 21 states is not accounted for, according to The Associated Press, Stanford University’s Big Local News project, and Stanford education professor Thomas Dee

The analysis coins kids as “missing” when they dropped out of school, but there is also no record of them moving out of state, or signing up for a private school or home-school.

“Missing” students received crisis-level attention in 2020 after the pandemic closed schools nationwide. And since then, they have greatly become a burden, budgeting-wise. Each student represents money from the city, state, and federal governments.

During the pandemic, school enrollment plunged. The study showed enrollment fell by about 700,000 students between the 2019-2020 and 202 -2022 school years. Some of those students enrolled in private school or switched to home-schooling, 103,000 and 184,000 students respectively.

Due to a lack of data, the analysis doesn’t include 29 states, including Texas. However, when looking at the available records from the Texas Education Agency, the number of students who dropped out jumped roughly 34 percent from 46,319 students in the 2020-21 school year, compared to 34,477 two years prior.

During the same time, statewide enrollment decreased for the first time since TEA began collecting data for the Public Education Information Management System. About 5.4 million schoolchildren were enrolled in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. By 2020-21, there were 5.3 million students, as reported by The Houston Chronicle.

That’s thousands of students. Why did they leave? Over months of reporting AP learned of students and families avoiding school for a range of reasons from being afraid of COVID-19, to being homeless. Others left the country or couldn’t study online. Some preferred to find jobs or slid into depression.

According to AP, the true number of “missing” students is likely higher, since the analysis does not include the unknown numbers of “ghost students” who are technically enrolled but never make it to class.

In a state where schools are funded with an Average Daily Attendance (ADA) method, every day a child misses school costs the district the per capita funding allotment ($6,160,) meaning thousands of dollars lost per year. Underfunding thousands of public school educators and staff for something completely out of their hands.

AP points out that discussion on how to recover from the pandemic has focused largely on test scores and performance when data suggests there is a greater need to understand more about the children who aren’t in school and how this will affect their development and their local public school.

Written by RA News staff.


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