June 20, 2024 12:49 am
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Decreasing Enrollment at Public Schools in New Hampshire

Credit: iStock

Mohamed Bughrara

According to the New Hampshire Department of Education’s yearly census, there are presently 161,755 children enrolled in the state’s regular public schools. A further 5,526 students attend the state’s public charter schools. 

The little decrease in total enrolment follows a big dip the previous year, when many families switched to alternative or homeschool choices or kept their children out of kindergarten and preschool due to the pandemic.

This year the number of  children enrolled in New Hampshire’s K–12 public schools is a 1% decrease from the previous year. This loss extends a two-decade-long declining trend, which has been fueled in major measure by the state’s older population and low fertility rates.

Manchester, Nashua, Bedford, Londonderry, and Concord continue to have the highest student numbers. Bedford is the only one that has expanded in recent years.

The shifts in New Hampshire’s student population have far-reaching consequences for municipalities, taxpayers, and students.

Lower enrollment does not result in immediate savings on expenditures such as facility upkeep, transportation, and personnel until districts remove school facilities or drastically reduce their budgets. 

However, it results in less state aid per kid. This means that local taxpayers will bear a greater share of the escalating costs.

The characteristics of New Hampshire’s student population are shifting as the total number of students falls. Recent financing through national COVID relief packages and state legislative initiatives has softened the shock of these hikes, enabling districts to pay for extra resources without drastic tax increases.

According to data from the state education department, the student population is getting increasingly ethnically diverse each year, particularly in the state’s three largest cities: Nashua, Manchester, and Concord. For example, in Manchester, the number of pupils of color has nearly doubled in the past two decades. As some districts grow more ethnic and conform to international cultures, they have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to employ staff who represent these developments.

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