A few readers e-mailed me today to ask what role competition from private schools has played in the declining student enrollment numbers in public schools in the region, which have defied projections.

Alan Grulich, the director of assessment and evaluation at the Grossmont Union High School District, said the proportion of parents choosing to send their kids to private schools has not changed much over time. Instead, he said, an increase in education options has made predicting student populations more difficult:

I think that the number of students coming to us from private schools has remained about the same. The issue to me is that the number of charter schools and other alternatives — I mean, the number of the schools has increased.

A report commissioned by the district last year suggested that the run-up in housing values bears the most responsibility for the falling enrollment by pricing young families out of the region, Grulich said.

Grossmont’s Deputy Superintendent of Business Services Scott Patterson, who previously worked at the San Diego Unified School District and helped administer Proposition MM funds, said both school systems have faced some challenges in the way they estimate future student enrollment. He said:

It’s one of those things. It’s like the stock market. Past performance is no guarantee of the future, but it’s the easiest thing to do, to look at the past trends and then predict that they will continue. Then, when some of those conditions (like housing bubbles) hit, and the tide turned, that’s what happened in our district.


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