(Thousand Oaks, Ca) On September 4, Assistant Superintendent Victor Hayek warned that Conejo Valley Unified School District was experiencing a downward trend in cash reserves related to declining enrollment (click here for article).
The impact of declining enrollment and loss of cash reserves is closing of neighborhood schools and the shift of students to other schools. In addition, closing of schools doesn’t always result in reduction of costs as some can become charter schools (such as Bridges and Meadows Arts & Technology Elementary School or “MATES”), which means that students remain at the school and do not shift to CVUSD schools where the district can continue to obtain state funding.
Conejo Valley Student Age Population at Nearly 27,000
CVUSD has launched its 2018-2019 school year with enrollment of 18,500 “eager young minds” according to a welcome message posted by District Superintendent, Mark McLaughlin.
But with US Census and Nielsen data reflecting estimates of those between ages 5-20 at 27,000 for Thousand Oaks, where have nearly one-third of school age children in Conejo Valley gone?
Some portion of these fall outside of school age. But with nearly 10,000 individuals, the answer could be “somewhere else.” With the addition of Oaks Christian in 2000, various charter schools in the area, along with a growing national trend of parents choosing to home school, and now an even newer trend of online schools, CVUSD has competition.
“We took our child out of CVUSD after a bullying incident,” explained one mother who asked not to be named. “We liked our school but did not feel that the administration worked to help address the issues we were experiencing.”
Another parent, asking not be named, explained, “common core really bothers me. I cannot imagine having to deal with teaching my son math in a form that I do not even understand myself. It’s ridiculous. I have looked it up and it would make my kids less able as adults.”
According to the National Home Education Research Institute, many parents are choosing to home school their children. The organization estimates 2.3 million children were being home-schooled for grades K-12 as of Spring 2016.
Connections Academy, an online school for primary education, estimates that 2.7 million K-12 students are now pursuing their education online.
But could this decline simply be due to the birth rate? Not likely since Thousand Oaks shows an increase in the birth rate between 2000 to 2016.
Birth Rate Increasing in Thousand Oaks
The City of Thousand Oaks, along with other local governments, utilize the Southern California Association of Governments website as a data source for their demographics and other analysis. The website combines US Census information along with Nielsen data for mid-term Census calculations.
In the United States, State laws require birth certificates to be completed for all births, and Federal law mandates national collection and publication of births and other vital statistics data. The National Vital Statistics System, the Federal compilation of this data, is the result of the cooperation between the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the States to provide access to statistical information from birth certificates. This data is available on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.
In 2000, according to the CDC website, Thousand Oaks residents had 1,077 live births.
According to the Ventura County Health Care Agency, in 2016, that number climbed to 1,117 across zip codes (91320, 91360, 91361, and 91362). The data reflects the birth rate is up by just under 10% between 2000-2016.
In a 2015 USC-SCAG Workshop, Janna Goldberg presented information comparing 5 counties entitled “Birth Trends in Southern California.” Her presentation included the following chart (see Figure 1) which reflects a flat birth rate for Ventura County over the last 40+ years and expectations of that to continue through 2020.
Of key importance is that 5 years after a baby is born, they are able to attend school. However, at the same time that the data shows an increase in birth rate at CVUSD, the schools show a downward trend in enrollment.
CVUSD Declining Enrollment
Conejo Valley Unified School District has endured a troubling trend with enrollment dropping at levels not consistent with the growing birth rate.
CVUSD provides semi-annual reporting on its “Average Daily Attendance” or ADA. Based on ADA, the state pays the district based on student attendance.
The following charts were created by The Voice La Voz with data obtained from CVUSD’s audited financial information as posted on their website.
CVUSD financials reflect the ADA for 2nd semester on their website. According to the chart the enrollment is down significantly since 2008. Each year since then roughly 300 less students attend the district even though the birth rate has gone up during that period.
In reviewing detailed numbers, the greatest decline in enrollment has occurred in K-8 children who are leaving CVUSD at disproportionately higher rates than high school students. From 2003-2017, in examining year over year changes to enrollment, K-8 enrollment declined by 3,494 children and yet in the same period the high school grew by 372 students in year over year enrollment changes.
While the overall trend has shown that students are leaving K-8 schools in CVUSD, the last 5 years show sizable departures at the high school level. In 2017, more student left the high school (-182) than K-8 (-134).
No information is yet available regarding 2018 enrollment by grade.
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