Where have the kindergartners gone?

Kindergarten enrollment dropped in 2014 — in Boise and across the state — and Boise district superintendent Don Coberly has a theory about what happened.

Don Coberly square
Don Coberly

He links the dropoff to the Great Recession from five years earlier. The economic downturn may have prompted couples to put off having children.

And that could be the beginning of a trend, Coberly writes in a pair of recent blog posts. Live birth rates haven’t returned to pre-recession numbers, in Boise or across the state. That could translate to flat enrollment figures for several years to come.

A few numbers from Coberly’s research:

  • Statewide, kindergarten enrollment dropped to 21,573 in 2014-15, a 4.1 percent drop from 2013-14. This coincides with a statewide drop in live births between 2008 and 2009, a 5.7 percent decrease.
  • In Boise, kindergarten enrollment dropped to 1,763 in 2014, an 8 percent decrease. This corresponds with a drop in the Ada County’s live birth rate, which was 5,240 in 2009, an 8.1 percent decrease. (Typically, about a third of the county’s newborns end up in Boise schools, so the district uses birth rates from five years earlier as a yardstick to project kindergarten enrollment.)

From 2010 to 2012, the county’s birth numbers continued to lag below the 2009 rate.

“We’ll see if the projections play out as well as they have in the past few years,” Coberly wrote. “If they do, we can expect flat enrollment numbers rather than the substantial growth which had occurred in district enrollment from 2008 to 2013. District enrollment grew by almost 1,100 students during those years, but declined slightly in 2014.”