NYC adds 8K students amid migrant crisis after years of decline

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By Dan Sears

The New York City public school system reported its first bump in student enrollment in eight years, which officials attributed to an influx of tens of thousands of migrant families.

The city Department of Education added about 8,000 students — a 1% increase — bringing total student enrollment to 915,000 in the nation’s largest public school system, officials reported Wednesday.

Enrollment had steadily plummeted over the past decade — particularly so during the COVID-19 pandemic while schools were closed and students and staff struggled with remote learning.

The Big Apple school system boasted 1.1 million students a generation ago.

Mayor Eric Adam and Schools Chancellor David Banks applauded the increase in enrollment in a joint press release, claiming the city has turned the corner in the post-pandemic era.

“This positive trend is a testament to the effective strategies implemented by the Adams administration, including through the Project Open Arms initiative,” they said, referring to the program that helped integrate migrant kids into schools.

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Students arrive at Newcomers High School in Long Island City in September.

About 20,000 students live in temporary housing, many of them from migrant families who are enrolled in city schools.

“When we say New York City is back, we are not just talking about our economy — we are talking about our communities and our entire city. And after eight years of declining enrollment, New York City public schools are back,” said Adams. 

“Chancellor Banks and our administration are focused on delivering the best education possible for our young New Yorkers by cutting through bureaucracy, expanding outreach, and making enrollment easier. New Yorkers are voting with their feet, and we are excited to see funding increase for so many of our public schools.”

Mayor Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks applauded the program that helped integrate migrant kids into schools.
Robert Miller

Still, the mayor and chancellor said the enrollment data is preliminary and won’t be finalized until the spring, and cautioned that students can still enter or leave the system during the school year

Banks, noting the surge of students in temporary housing with the influx of asylum seekers, said, “With a majority of schools gaining additional funding during this mid-year adjustment, we are well positioned to meet the challenges ahead. However, to continue our progress and ensure the success of our students, particularly those in temporary housing, we urgently need increased state and federal funding.”

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There are challenges, however.

Despite the slight increase in enrollment, many schools whose enrollment has shrunk will see funding reduced in the middle of the school year.

A New York Post cover from September references the influx of migrant students in NYC schools.

Meanwhile, the DOE will have to cut spending by at least 5% mid-year to rein in the city’s projected budget gaps.  Parents and elected officials are already rebelling against the cancellation of hiring 250 additional school safety agents while security staffing is down 25% from pre-pandemic levels.

In March of last year, Banks and the Department of Education reported a drop of 120,000 students in city schools from the prior five years.

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