Monday, September 13, 1999

Isle schools
enrollment drops
for second year

The 185,036 student count
in public schools is 2,359 below
that of the previous school year
and the economy is blamed

By Crystal Kua


For the second year in a row, public school enrollment is down, with declines in all school districts across the state.

The official student count for the current school year is 185,036, a drop of 2,359 from last year's total of 187,395.

Not all schools experienced a decrease, but for those that did, the drop in enrollment will mean less money or fewer teachers.


"We're not having as many (students) coming in like we have in the past" to offset those leaving the state, said Tom Saka, Department of Education information specialist and chief of the statistical research and analysis section.

Officials expected a decline in enrollment. Saka said he projected enrollment to be down by a couple of hundred more than last year's decrease of 1,886 students, but described this year's decrease as "big time. We are identifying who those kids are," Saka said.

Hawaii's struggling economy is the likely culprit, he said.

The loss of more than 4,000 students over the last two years brings public school enrollment below the 1995-96 school year level, when enrollment was at 186,581.

Three factors are used to forecast enrollment: the ratio of incoming kindergartners to outgoing 12th-graders, the number of school-age children moving into and out of the state, and births.

After looking at economic and housing factors, the department thought the exodus of young families had stabilized, Saka said.

"We assumed it bottomed out last year," he said. "We thought that all the people who were leaving left."

He said births have stabilized over the past few years and students are not flocking to private schools in these kinds of numbers.

The decline in enrollment "will have an impact in that it'll decrease the number of regular education teachers," said Evelyn Horiuchi, Department of Education budget director.

Horiuchi said her office is still trying to determine what that number will be.

"Most of our allocations to schools are based on enrollment," Horiuchi said.

The Central Oahu School District lost 782 students, the biggest district decrease. The Honolulu District followed, with a decrease of 513 students.

Central Oahu's decline is primarily linked to fewer military children.

Schools with the largest decreases were largely military-connected schools such as Iroquois Point Elementary, which saw its count go from 1,074 last year to 834 this year, and Barbers Point Elementary, with enrollment falling from 494 to 293.

Saka said the Honolulu District has seen a steady decline over the past few years.

"We've been getting steady drops. People are moving out of Makiki and into the new homes in Mililani Mauka, Kapolei."

Where enrollment climbed, funding will, too.

The largest individual school gains were in Ewa and Mililani and are mainly due to new housing in the area.

While overall enrollment drops, the state continues to service more special education students because of a federal court order to improve services to special needs children. Special education students make up 19,269 of the public education population, up from last year's count of 18,195.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin