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Students are socially distanced during the start of the new school year at One World Middle School in the Bronx, Oct. 1, 2020.

Michael Appleton/Mayor’s Office

Education: Trends to Watch for the Future of NYC

Traditional public school K-12 enrollment dropped 5.8% under de Blasio, even before COVID and remote learning. Charter schools are a big reason.

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The start of 2022 marks a point of transition between Bill de Blasio’s eight years in charge of New York City and the arrival of Mayor Eric Adams. A mostly new City Council just took office.

THE CITY is giving New York City a checkup by tracking its vital signs year by year on health, poverty, crime, housing, environment, homelessness, transportation and education, showing progress through de Blasio’s terms in office into the pandemic — and the stage set for Adams.

The share of school-age children enrolled in K-12 traditional public schools declined over Bill de Blasio’s two terms as mayor — largely thanks to increased enrollment in charter schools.


Although the city’s declining birth rate created a 3.1% drop in the school-age population during de Blasio’s administration, enrollment in traditional public schools dropped faster. 

Excluding the new pre-K and 3K programs de Blasio created, enrollment in Department of Education schools went from 971,857 in the 2014-2015 school year, to 915,293 in the 2019-2020 school year — a 5.8% decrease.

Enrollment dropped further to 880,145 in the 2020-2021 school year — as some families opted for homeschooling or private schools during extended remote learning, or left the city entirely during the pandemic.

Much of the decline can be attributed to an increase in charter school enrollments, which surged from 84,717 at the beginning of de Blasio’s two terms to 138,648. The 53,931 increase is roughly on par with the 56,564 decline in traditional enrollment before the pandemic.

Private school K-12 enrollment experienced a slight drop from 234,864 in the 2014-2015 school year to 217,799 in the 2020-2021 school year, state records show — though enrollment in Jewish schools has surged.

The city also saw increased enrollment in pre-K, which de Blasio moved aggressively to establish as a universal program starting in 2014, adding 3K starting in 2017.

The number of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in public full-time pre-school increased from more than 22,000 when de Blasio took office, to nearly 76,000 in the 2020-2021 school year, according to the Independent Budget Office.

Among them were more than 31,600 enrolled in Department of Education programs, with the remainder served by nonprofit organizations.

Read our coverage on education.