Students May Be Leaving California Schools; But Not in Fresno

According to The Fresno Bee, there may be one California city where school enrollment isn’t on a steady decline — their own. 

“Enrollment in California schools dropped again this year by roughly 1.8% — but not in Fresno County, where enrollment marginally increased, according to new data released by the California Department of Education. Fresno County schools appear to be bucking those trends with more stable enrollment numbers.

Total K-12 enrollment in Fresno County increased slightly by 0.26%, from 205,480 in the 2020-21 school year to 206,018 in 2021-22. Three of Fresno County’s largest school districts saw similar trends. K-12 enrollment in Fresno Unified increased from 72,419 in 2020-21 to 72,455 in 2021-22, or by roughly 0.05%. Clovis Unified enrollment dropped by about 0.2% from 42,790 to 42,699. Central Unified also dropped by 0.08%, taking enrollment from 15,742 to 15,729.

Nancy Akhavan, an associate professor at Fresno State’s Kremen School of Education and Human Development, said that Fresno’s steadier enrollment numbers might have something to do with mobility — or, in the Central Valley, a lack thereof. In more affluent parts of California, especially along the coast, more people can afford to relocate or transition to homeschooling in search of a better education for their children. But in places like Fresno, where the poverty rate tends to be higher, that flexibility isn’t there. ‘They have options that people who are in low socioeconomic status jobs don’t have,’ Akhavan said. 

At the same time that it may be harder for families to leave the central San Joaquin Valley, there appears to be an influx of people leaving expensive coastal cities for inland areas like Fresno, said Edgar Zazueta, the new executive director of the Association of California School Administrators.”

The idea of socioeconomic status and how it relates to lifestyle mobility is an interesting discussion that’s worth looking at when it comes to school enrollment. What some see as a disadvantage, we see as an opportunity in Fresno for more funding towards student resources as well as enrichment programs to maintain and serve their steady student population. Who knows, maybe the next generation of super gifted students will be coming out of Fresno!

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Lety Gomez

Lety Gomez

Lety Gómez was born and raised in East San Jose. She is married with three children. She is proud to be the first in her family to attend college and receive a bachelor’s degree. When she was a teenager, Fr. Mateo Sheedy was the pastor of her parish, Sacred Heart of Jesus. She fondly remembers his passion for social justice, especially justice for the immigrant community in San Jose and ensuring that the parish youth had access to high quality education. Fr. Mateo instilled in her his passion for social justice, but for many years it was kept unlit, deep inside of her. It wasn’t until her youngest daughter was enrolled at Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep in 2014 that her passion for social justice lit up. Thanks to the Rocketship parent organizer at that time, Lety received training and the tools to use her voice for social justice and learned about community organizing. She is proud to be one of the many parents who worked hard to open their school, knowing that the kids needed and deserved a better public school. That struggle is why they named their school Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep. “Fuerza” is the Spanish word for force, strength, or power. Her passion for advocating for equity in education has allowed her to be a voice for other parents in her community who seek high quality education options. In 2014, she chaired the first parent-led Mayoral candidates forum in San Jose, where she realized the power parents have to create change in their communities. She wants to share her story with other parents in an effort to motivate them to get involved so they can advocate together, because united, they can make a change in the educational system and in their communities. In 2020 Lety moved to Texas, where she continues to advocate for equity in public education and school choice across our country.

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