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Declining enrollment sends disturbing message

September 12, 2018 12:03 am Updated: September 12, 2018 12:03 am

Many officials are attempting to explain the declining enrollment in the 12 Greene and Columbia county school districts. But anyone who pays attention to such matters knows the downward trend has been spiraling for two decades.

A troublesome report released last week by the Conservative think tank Empire Center for Public Policy showed student enrollment in the state’s public schools is at its lowest point since the 1991-92 academic year.

The report cites state Education Department statistics that show enrollment in the Hudson City School District dropped to 1,767 students in 2017-18, its lowest in six years. The Catskill Central School District’s enrollment peaked at 1,648 students in 2011-12, but fell to its lowest enrollment at 1,469 students in 2017-18.

U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, said the state is losing population, primarily families, because of the state’s poor job environment and an overtaxed and unfriendly upstate economy.

These precipitous declines will reverberate through the area’s economy for years to come if the trend does not reverse, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden suggested.

As the number of high school students drops, so will the number of high school graduates, straining Columbia-Greene Community College’s resources, resulting in higher tuition and fees and cuts in programs as college enrollment falls like a domino.

The effect will continue as the exodus from the Twin Counties thins out the workforce, meaning fewer new jobs, more low-paying jobs with no future and less spending power for consumers.

If you’re settled in Columbia or Greene county with a quality home and a good job, maybe you won’t notice the effect the student enrollment decline is having. But if you’re concerned about the future of this area, you should take a closer look.