The Iowa Department of Education released projections this week in its "Condition of Education" report that indicate the trend of dwindling K-12 enrollment in the state.
The report said private school enrollment is expected to drop 8.49 percent, and public school populations to decline 0.9 percent through the 2010-11 school year.
The state is projecting small enrollment gains in suburban areas that will be outweighed by large losses in rural areas.
This is a trend that has been going on for decades, actually for more than a century. Iowa is the only state in the country in which the population did not increase by at least 50 percent during the previous century. What little growth that there has been has all occurred in the largest cities, with rural areas suffering from both a general decline and an aging of the population, with a corresponding loss of students.
The dwindling rural enrollment continues to generate debate among lawmakers and education officials regarding consolidation of schools. But consolidation after consolidation has created many districts that are as large geographically as is logistically practical, while enrollment continues to decline.
We need creative solutions to the problem, not more mandates from the state that are transparent attempts to pressure districts into consolidation rather than responses to real education needs.