Virginia’s Changing Public School Demographics – COVID Edition

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s public schools underwent significant changes in enrollment between 2018-19 and 2020-21.

The figures for this school year have yet to be released.

In the three-year period ending 2020-21, Virginia public schools saw a decline of 37,775 students, a loss of 2.9%.

The racial and social-economic demographics also changed. The numbers and percentages of Hispanic, Asian and mixed race children bucked the overall trend and increased.

Virginia public school population changes over the three years and current percentages of the public school population by selected subgroups include:

  • Male students maintained their 3% advantage in numbers statewide over female students in all three years.
  • White students three-year change minus 44,036/minus 7% to 580,702. In 2020-21 they comprised 46.3% of the public school population.
  • Black students three-year change minus 8,993/minus 3.1% to 277,039, staying steady at 22.1% of the public school population.
  • Asian students three-year change plus 1,130 to 93,252, increasing to 7.4% of the public school population.
  • Multiple race students three-year change plus 4,341/plus 5.9% to 77,929, increasing to 5.9% of the public school population.
  • Hispanic students three-year change plus 10,042/plus 4.8% to 218,781, increasing to 17.5% of the public school population.
  • Students with disabilities three-year change minus 35,067/minus 1.6% to 168,042, increasing to 13.4% of the public school population.
  • Economically disadvantaged* minus 8,155/minus 1.6% to 512,672,  increasing to 41% of the public school population.
  • English Learners three-year change minus 2,118/minus 1.3%. In 2020-21 maintained steady at 12.8% of the public school population.
  • Homeless three-year change minus 2,228/minus 26.5%.  In 2020-21 decreased to 0.6% of school population.
  • Military connected three-year change plus 91/plus 0.1%. In 2020-21 increased slightly to 5.3% of school population.

*The numbers of disadvantaged children are determined by a methodology that uses free or reduced price meals eligibility. That eligibility is not the same as poverty. The Department of Agriculture guidelines for free meals and milk and reduced price meals were obtained by multiplying the year 2021 Federal income poverty guidelines by 1.30 and 1.85, respectively. Under those guidelines, if a family of four makes $49,000 this year not including excluded federal programs, the children are eligible for reduced price meals and counted as economically disadvantaged.

This information is important in itself and serves as background context for future columns on education in Virginia.