In Rockland County, an affluent patch of suburbia north of New York City, 64 percent of the children are non-Hispanic whites. But a solid majority of the public school pupils are non-white. There’s a simple reason for that: Nearly half of the kids are in private school. Many of them are from Orthodox Jewish families who sent their children to yeshivas. As in much of the country, public student enrollment doesn’t closely reflect the population of children living in the community.
To show where this kind of mismatch exists, Governing compiled aggregate K-12 enrollment data for all larger U.S. counties reported to the Department of Education. Census estimates covering the under-18 population for 2013-2017 were then compared with average public-school enrollment over the same period.
Nationally, public schools are less white than their communities, with blacks and Hispanics generally over-represented in those schools. The discrepancy isn’t very large in most places at the county level, typically a few percentage points. But the gap is far larger in some jurisdictions, and it’s in these areas where there can be a serious disconnect between taxpayers and support for public schools. Under- or over-representation is often much more apparent in smaller areas within counties, such as individual towns and districts.