Local Schools’ Enrollment On Decline

Although 95 percent of Upstate New York’s 453 school districts have experienced declining enrollment when compared with that of six years ago, Jamestown Public Schools is the only area school showing a positive differential.

According to a report released by Buffalo Business First this week, JPS had 94 more students enrolled in the 2012-13 academic year than it did in 2007-08, equivalating to a 2 percent increase of its student body. In regard to their respective student populations, all other Chautauqua County districts are in the red from anywhere between Clymer Central School’s 1.8 percent decrease to Panama Central School’s 22.25 percent decrease.

According to G. Scott Thomas, projects editor for Business First, this is the first time Business First has done a comparison in terms of individual district enrollments.

“The enrollment (report) just occurred to me this year,” Thomas said. “I don’t know how they did it, but the fact that Jamestown avoided a decline in enrollment was surprising to me.”

Also released this week was a report on individual district per-pupil spending numbers relative to the statewide average. The release showed the majority of Western New York districts, 78 of 98, were below the state average of $20,906 per pupil. Thomas said that number is not surprising when a large metropolitan area such as New York City is taken into account.

“The state average (of per-pupil spending) is inflated particularly by areas like Long Island, where administrator and possibly teacher salaries are much higher than they are here,” Thomas said. “So (Western New York) would tend to be below that average. The districts that tend to spend higher are smaller in size, and a lot of them are in Western New York. And that makes sense because they have the same standards to adhere to that the big schools do, but they have fewer resources to handle it.”

Of the 98 Western New York school districts, Chautauqua County is home to four of the top 10 in highest spending per pupil during the 2011-12 academic year – which is the latest academic year with official data available. The top four Chautauqua County districts are: Ripley Central School, ranked fourth with $24,772 per pupil; Chautauqua Lake Central School, ranked fifth with $24,690 per pupil; Pine Valley Central School, ranked seventh with $24,046 per pupil; and Brocton Central School, ranked ninth with $23,581.