Credit: iStock/Getty Images/Rubberball

It has been almost 10 months since the COVID-19 epidemic led to a nationwide shutdown of businesses, religious centers and schools. nextLI has covered how that shutdown had a tangible impact on the economy and national unemployment –– and, most importantly, magnified long-standing gaps along financial, racial and educational lines.

The data available on the pandemic’s impact on education and student learning is still preliminary and limited, since the first semester of school in the COVID-19 era has not yet ended and is amid worsening infection rates and the holiday season.

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As we navigate the new normal of schooling post-pandemic, nextLI analyzed education data to offer a pre-COVID snapshot of Long Island’s school system and how it had been changing up until the epidemic. We approached this analysis with one overaching question: How has LI’s student population changed in the past 18 years?

nextLI analyzed New York State Department of Education data from 2000 to 2018 (the most recent available data) and looked at varying indicators:

  • Total student enrollment in non-public and public schools (2000-2018)
  • Total student enrollment by race in non-public (2014-2019) and public schools (2004-2018)
  • Trends in reduced and free lunch recipients in public schools (2004-2016)
  • Trends in post-grad plans for public school students (2004-2016), and a closer look into specific public school districts
  • The key takeaway on Island-wide enrollment: Long Island’s student enrollment has gradually shrunk, and more young Long Islanders are going to public schools over private schools compared to 18 years ago.

    Snapshot: 2000 vs. 2018

    In 2018, the region’s total enrolled K-12 student population was 466,676.

    In 2000, that number was 506,981 –– 8% larger than 2018 Island-wide enrollment, or a more than 40,000 gap in the number of enrolled students 18 years ago.

    The composition of LI non-public and public student enrollment has shifted over the years towards a rising share of LIers attending public schools over private schools.

    LI’s school composition (2000)

    LI’s school composition (2018)

    Of the total population of students enrolled in LI schools in 2018, 91% of young LIers attended public schools while 9% attended non-public schools. Compared to student enrollment in 2000, 3% more LIers went to public schools than non-public schools.

    Public vs. non-public school composition (2000)

    Public vs. non-public school composition (2018)

    Average year over year percent change in Island-wide enrollment over 18 years was -0.5%. Yearly student enrollment has been declining, with slight blips of increases, but has had a mostly negative rate of growth.

    Considering the region’s population during the same time frame increased by 3% to 2.8 million residents in 2018, it’s worth noting that the decline in student enrollment trends are in contrast with the rise in LI’s population trends.

    Wait, how did you get those numbers?

    We use county- and district-level public school data from New York State’s department of Education database, and county- and school-level non-public school data from the state’s Information and Reporting Services archived database over the time period 2000 to 2018 (also provided by the state’s Department of Education).

    nextLI’s snapshot defines total enrollment as K-12 student enrollment, and does not include homeschooled Long Islanders in the analysis.

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