Sunday, February 2, 2020

Statewide, Adirondack School Enrollment Declines

Student enrollment in public schools is falling in every county in New York outside of New York City, except for one. School enrollments in 57 of New York’s 63 counties from Suffolk to Erie, Orange to Oswego, experienced declines in school enrollments in the last decade, from 2011 to 2019.

The only county outside of New York City to experience student enrollment growth was Saratoga County.

Far from a singular Adirondack Park or North Country trend, school enrollments across 57 counties outside of New York City had about 107,000 fewer students enrolled in the 2019-20 school year than were enrolled in 2011. Many decry declining public school enrollment numbers as a uniquely Adirondack problem, but it’s a reality across New York State, Upstate and Downstate, driven by trends toward an aging population, smaller families, lower birth rates, and young people delaying the start of families.

New York’s population has been stagnant for close to 40 years, hovering at around 19 million residents. While New York’s population has not grown significantly in total numbers, the composition of the state’s residents has not been static. In the last 40 years, the state’s population has shifted and today there are 1 million more New Yorkers over 65 years of age and 1 million fewer residents under the age of 18 than there was 40 years ago. That shift towards an older population impacts school enrollment numbers and is more pronounced in Upstate rural communities than in Downstate metropolitan communities.

In 2011, there were 2.71 million children enrolled in public schools across New York, including over 65,000 children enrolled in charter schools, with just over 1 million in New York City. At the close of the decade, there were 2.63 million students enrolled in public schools, with New York City enrollment up by nearly 28,000 students. By 2019, charter school enrollments had doubled to over 156,000 students throughout the state. The trend of slowly declining school enrollments outside of New York City is consistent with long-term findings in The Adirondack Park and Rural America report published last year by Protect the Adirondacks.

In Suffolk County on Long Island, which has 68 different school districts with nearly 231,000 students, 41 districts posted losses, which topped -21,000 in total. In Nassau County, which has 56 school districts and over 200,000 students, saw 35 districts post losses, which topped -2,000 students.

Monroe County (Rochester) experienced a loss of over 7,700 students. Dutchess County, in the Hudson Valley, and Erie County (Buffalo) saw declines of over 5,000 students each. Orange County, in the lower Hudson Valley, saw a loss of almost 5,000.

Broome County (Binghamton) saw a loss of over 2,800. In his State of the State speech, Governor Cuomo touted that young people were moving to Buffalo, but Erie County saw a decline of over 5,000 total students in the past decade. Monroe County (Rochester) saw a drop of over 7,700. Onondaga County (Syracuse) saw a decline of over 3,700. Ontario County, one of the few Upstate New York counties that have experienced population growth in the last decade, still saw losses of over 1,200 students. Schenectady County dropped by over 4,000. Albany County was flat, dropping by a mere 620 students, out of an enrollment of over 39,000. Saratoga was the lone county outside of New York City to show gains in school enrollments, just over 1,100 students.

Across New York, there are 686 school districts outside of the five boroughs of New York City, which saw a drop in total enrollment in the last decade from 1.68 million to 1.57 million, a loss of just over 107,000. Of the 686 school districts, 124 saw growth in enrollment, only 18%, while 562 districts experienced declining enrollments. Over 46% of New York’s public school districts saw an enrollment drop of -10% or higher in the last decade.

Many school districts in the Adirondacks straddle the Blue Line, so it’s not an easy task to evaluate gains and losses through a purely Adirondack Park lens. The school districts that saw a tick up in the Adirondacks and North Country were Schroon Lake, Crown Point, the small elementary school in Putnam, and Long Lake (+3 students), while AuSable Valley was flat. On the edge of the Park, Beekmantown and Colton-Pierrepont saw gains.

As a whole, New York State saw a -4% drop in student enrollments 2011-2019. In the North Country, some districts saw minor changes: Bolton (-1%); Keene (-2%); Malone (-2%); Plattsburgh (-2%); Broadalbin-Perth (-3%); Remsen (-3%); Glens Falls (-3.6%); Potsdam (-4%); Canton (-4.6%); North Warren (-5%); Saranac (-6%); Johnsburg (-6%); Saratoga Springs (-6%); Peru (-6.6%); and Lowville (-6.6%).

Adirondack Park districts that saw bigger losses, include Moriah (-12%); Queensbury (-12%); St Regis Falls (-13%); Clifton-Fine (-13%); Lake Placid (-13%); Tupper Lake (-13%); Webb (-14%); Saranac Lake (-15%); Warrensburg (-15%); Ticonderoga (-15%); Minerva (-16%); Wells (-19%); Hadley-Luzerne (-21%); Lake George (-22%); Newcomb (-24%); Willsboro (-24%); and Indian Lake (-28%). These 17 school districts combined had over 10,000 students enrolled in 2019, but had dropped by nearly 1,900 since 2011. Across New York, 36% of all school districts experienced a -12% or greater drop in enrollments and among the 50 school districts with the biggest enrollment declines, nine were in the North Country, with six within the Adirondack Park.

Across New York State, outside of New York City, 82% of school districts saw enrollment declines from 2011 to 2019. No part of the state was left untouched. As we move into the election season in 2020, I’m sure that we’ll hear a political narrative that the declining school enrollment numbers in the Adirondacks are something unique to our region. The blame will undoubtedly focus on environmental protections. The reality is that New York’s overall population is stagnant and aging. As a result, the number of school age young people is slowly declining everywhere across the state, except New York City.

Further Reading: You can find detailed analysis of Protect the Adirondack’s report The Adirondack Park and Rural America, along with additional recent population data Adirondack Almanack HERE).

Related Stories

Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

36 Responses

  1. Nora Mongan says:

    You can also add that the highest amount of people have moved out of New York to other states in the last 10 years

  2. Adirondacklifer says:

    I like how Mr. Bauer forgot to mention Hamilton County, that large red area completely within the boundaries of the Adirondack Park. Guess it didn’t quite fit his narrative.

    • Kathryn says:

      He mentions Indian Lake (-28%)

      • John Warren says:

        And Long Lake (+3 students)

        A small change in Hamilton County is a big change in percentage.

        • Adirondacklifer says:

          Yes, Mr. Bauer mentioned the towns within Hamilton County, but he did not elaborate how the county as a whole is the only county that saw a decrease in an enrollment that exceeded 25%. He also states that 9 of the top 50 schools to see enrollment declines were in the North Country. Why 50, makes 9 seem insignificant? If you say 9 out of the top 10, that sounds a little more dire. Funny thing with statistics, you can usually play with the numbers, regardless how much they counter your viewpoint, to fit your narrative.

          • John Warren says:

            Hamilton County is an anomaly because of its population. It’s not a conspiracy, you can look at the data yourself.

            • Adirondacklifer says:

              But it’s an “anomaly” in the Adirondacks, which is what this whole exercise is about. Never said anything about a “conspiracy”. I would just like Mr. Bauer to explain all the facts, especially the one staring us right in the face. I am actually quite impressed and grateful for all the work that has gone into “The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010” report. There is a wealth of information that our local towns should find quite useful. But again, Mr. Bauer needs to be honest with his portrayal of the statistics. Without that honesty, we will never be able to come to any lasting amenable solutions to these issues.

        • Hope says:

          Could also be students commuting from Tupper Lake to Long Lake. I know of at least 3 of them from 1 family.

  3. Heather Genter says:

    Decline in enrollment probably due to the results of high taxes forcing so many families and business to leave good old New York State that is being run by a tyrannical dictator named King Andrew Cuomo. Better be careful…he might get the idea that those schools aren’t necessary and decide to close them…just like he decides to close so many correctional facilities.

  4. Zephyr says:

    It’s the aging demographic problem that most rural areas in the country are facing due to lack of good jobs in those areas. Note that taxes are even higher in New York City, yet that is one of the few areas with growing school populations. It’s not the taxes, it’s the jobs. Taxes are more of an issue for those on fixed incomes, like the many retirees that live in the north country. Lots of people in Saratoga County work for the state government, or in one of the many businesses that surround the capital region. Same taxes as in the Adirondacks, but lots of good jobs available.

    • Boreas says:


      I agree. It is a complicated problem. Retirees tend to hang on as long as they can up here, but often find the taxes, climate, and healthcare more attractive in the deep south. Without tax help from industry and seniors, taxes are shared between fewer and fewer young people, who still have choices on where to settle. Very common in a lot of rural areas around the country.

      Why settle here?? Nice place to visit, but expensive to live here, poor internet and mobile communication. Day Care? Convenience to shopping? Not what young families are looking for. We could reduce taxes if we reduce expectations from the state in school and other funding, but is that a good option?

      • Zephyr says:

        Reducing school funding will just chase away more families with children–they want good schools, and funding does make a big difference. It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs. Young families gravitate toward where they can earn a good living and send their kids to good schools. Saratoga County is example #1. A lot of the resource extraction and manufacturing jobs disappeared in the Adirondacks and upstate in general, and they were often replaced with low-wage, dead-end service jobs, if any.

      • Bill apple says:

        I have the answer, a seasonal senior friend told Me the answer, I agree the Adirondack park is no place for kids shut down all the schools and make it for 55 and older only. if you can not speak English do not come here.if your not a rich retires do not come here, close it in the winter to save animals just like yellowstone national park, after all please read the 1968 adrondack national park guide book they have done a wonderful job , now just gate it off and close it down like Yellowstone.
        Problems solved…
        If you do not like living here LEAVE…

        • John Warren says:


          You’re new here, so I’m letting you rant on incoherently for now. You’re free to be a deranged internet commenter, but if you make another racist comment, you’re going to be banned.

          John Warren
          Founder & Editor
          Adirondack Almanack

  5. bob kingsley says:

    Great reporting, keep it up!

  6. Charlie S says:

    “a tyrannical dictator named King Andrew Cuomo.”

    He’d make a good republican!

  7. Charlie s says:

    “Across New York State, outside of New York City, 82% of school districts saw enrollment declines from 2011 to 2019. No part of the state was left untouched.”

    Maybe this is due to something other than what some suggest. Maybe the younger generation sees no hope for a future so have no interest in an education.

  8. JCurt says:

    So why do we have to keep growing population with new births year after year? Do you want to live in a state like California that is overcrowded and people that can afford it are moving out of. I lived there and still have relatives in California and they lament the overpopulation that is ruining the state. There are other reasons than high property taxes that cause population losses. If you look at the map, over the long term, it is the northern states with the worst weather. High heating bills in addition to terrible winter commutes are part of the problem. These are similar reasons why manufacturing has moved to southern states. Some western states such as Wyoming and North Dakota have poplulations that go up and down due to fluctuations in oil drilling. So, why is everyone picking on New York and not those other states such as the upper midwest and West Virginia? Maybe they are afraid that another New Yorker will try to run for higher office and they want to start blaming him now for things that they can publicize, in this case population and taxes. By the way, if you look at NY taxes, they are no worse than some other states that people are moving to, such as Texas. The weather and high heating bills are the reasons why neighbors and relatives of mine are moving to southern states when they retire.

    NY teenage births are down and that is one thing depressing the population numbers and school enrollments. People are no longer having large families, another reason. Large numbers of children in rural school districts in Essex County are on aid to dependent children and are eligible for free school lunches, so that is an indication that people are still having children they can’t afford. Don’t blame retired people, they aren’t the ones loading up the school districts, yet retired people still pay school taxes. What has to be done is to force consolidation of school districts that have very few students, yet maintain a full managment staff at high salaries, some with fewer than 20 students around here with no lowering of taxes. As Gov. Cuomo said, why do we have to pay school superintendents $150,000 a years, plus ample retirements (especially for schools with fewer than 20 students.) These schools are kept open as jobs for politically connected locals, where other taxpayers have to commute to out of town jobs to survive.

    Another thing to look at is almost free health insurance for part time town board members. My estimate is that in my town this bonus for attending a few meetings a week is costing taxpayers at least $6000 to $12000 a month, equivalent to the taxes of at least 6 to 12 struggling and elderly home owners gobbled up each month, well over $100,000 a year for this outdated benefit that they have voted for themselves. Few taxpayers, if any, know if their town board gets this benefit and how much. They should give you the costs if you ask under freedom of information. When I got figures for our local town board several years ago, the town was already paying over $1200 a month per town board member and the supervisor got even more.

    • Bill apple says:

      I would recommend you get all your facts straight.your right on on the last two paragraphs, I moved out of here in 96 to the Western states as jobs area staganant here, no were else are taxes this ridiculous. Other than CA,
      How many sanctuary City’s do you support?
      These are illeals, stealing benefits you pay for and should receive, Or you parents.
      Drug lords, terrorist, theives, that what they did in their countries what do you think their going to do here? Now when caught just let them loss to murder and rape the us citizen…
      Do not forget that Obama lifted the diease act so you could not come here with out a clean bill of health..
      No the illegals have brought all the third world diseases in here killing our kids and elderly just like we brought to the Indians…
      We know better now….

      TX is cheap, Wy has a steady base with extreme up swings in jobs when Republicans presidents get in office and downswings when Democrates get in office. DAM FUNNY HOW THAT WORKS 40 YEARS IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR YOU NOTICE THINGS LIKE THAT, ONE DAM NY REBUBLICIAN JUST PROVED THAT IN THREE YEARS FIGHTING DEMOCRATES AND MEDIA in three years turning it around…TRUMP…do figure a new yorker, what do we do drive him to FL……
      My elderly parents are why I’m back here cleaning up and careing for them, they refuse to leave, the last ten years I paid 200,000 for their taxes and insurance in TL.
      Only in NY do we discriminate against the land owner with school taxes.
      Como as much as I hate to say it is right on the taxes.The state is not responsible for the land and school taxes the town’s and counties are.
      38 dollars a hour for a town electrical worker in TL, plus benefits…they put up snow fence and play games all day long…God help then if they have to clear lines or cut limbs on right of way we contract that out…

      Busing kids 45 miles is not a issue other than in NY.
      Get real as adults, we travel hours one way to work. So a kid on a bus for 2 hours a day what’s the issue? Less day care?

      Tupper Lake sends kids to long lake because it needs kids and it’s a rich school district? Tuppers kids are on a bus one hour one way from childhood.
      But long lake can not consolidate with Tupper lake and Saranac lake?
      Consolidation has happened all over The US and many kids are on the busses over a hour…get them trained now.
      Global warming????? Why are they finding prehistoric remains in New york and tropical forest?
      It’s about time the Ice age ended and get back to tropical its imprinted millions of years ago, so Greta and the dems are wrong again…it’s supposed to be a tropical forest up here it’s proven millions of years ago let’s help the earth not fight it warm up….
      One more thing every one on earth is sitting on a time bomb. We are all sucide bombers….all the gas and oil, natural gas, uraium, mercury, lead, when the hot moltin core finally ignights this we will all be the asteroids that we are fearing that will hit the earth…just food for though from Hillary’s deplorbilies…wake up you can not change mother nature…
      If you keep dumping sand in your glass of water it fills up, keep dumping in the ocean where’s the water going??

      • Balian the Cat says:

        This sort of comment used to be fun to read. One would assume that it’s author was drunk or just whackadoodle and giggle while saying “wow!” and move on. Sadly, however, this type of diatribe now seems to be the new lingua franca – From our new Emperor to Devin Nunes and good old Rudy G – this sort of blitheringly ignorant and incoherent drivel has become a norm. It’s incomprehensible, unintelligible, and impossible to counter.

        In the imortal words of Bill apple “If you keep dumping sand in your glass of water it fills up, keep dumping in the ocean where’s the water going??”

      • Boreas says:

        “…deplorbilies…”. That is what you get when you cross a deplorable with a hillbilly. Food for thought…

  9. Amanda says:

    It honestly has nothing to do with NY population stagnant and aging and everything to do with Cuomo being the absolute worst governor ever! People are leaving in droves to get away from him… and now with bail reform, we are no longer safe in this state!

    • Nora Mongan says:

      Totally agree Amanda

    • Boreas says:

      I would never leave a state simply because of a bad governor. If they are that bad, they don’t last too long. Cuomo wasn’t responsible for the Great Recession. It hit NYS hard and we have been slow to recover, especially up here. Real estate hasn’t rebounded in my area. Bottom line is, the Adirondacks are still a tough place to live. Some can manage it, others can’t, and many others have no interest.

    • Charlie S says:

      Bail reform! We should see how it goes! Certainly it needs to be tweaked, but most of the people being let out while awaiting their due in court are not out raping and pillaging. If the system was not so unjust and favorable to those with power or money we wouldn’t even be talking about this, it would never have come this far.

      “we are no longer safe in this state!”

      Where are we safe? And what is your definition of safe? Safe from what? Who?

  10. Bill apple says:

    What do you expect when Democrates control the state?
    You have to pay them a bribe to get a job here and be willing to discriminate against the old and disables at every turn closeing of access to pubic lands and jobs, 40 plus year government employees, who steal every thing they can and are never prosecuted.
    You have the adrondack park act set up in 68 to kill 6 million acres of jobs and to drive the people out, obsurbed taxes, I own 250 acres here and pay 17,000 a year in taxes, and 380 acres in MO with a million dollar house and pay 1800 a year…electric in NY is 400 mth, mo 100, fossel fuels are a dollar a gallon cheaper in MO, heat for mo is 400 year here it’s 6000 a year.
    If you not a state worker your starving to death up here and of course you have to register as a dem.
    If you do not ski or hike stay home attuides here, now we have too many FREE hikers in the area.
    Free hikers all bring their own supplys and gear from out of state and leave their garbage behind.
    State closed off all the old men back in boat ramps and drive access to lakes, made car top launches only, taken all private paid for use areas, and turn them in to public walk in areas why would people leave this sewer that you have created?

    • Boreas says:


      The APA was signed by Nelson Rockefeller in 1971, and he was not the last republican governor elected in NYS. I also feel it is unfair to blame socioeconomic problems within NYS solely on NYS politics. We are also part of the United States, which also has its own economic problems that BOTH parties can own. 8 years under a tax-cutting GOP president set us up for the Great Recession, and I know I have not been the recipient of any benefits from the most recent Trump tax-cuts, and it is difficult to see any positive benefits from them within the Park, as you mention.

      People will always growl about taxes, and NYS certainly has an abundance of them, but NYS is not Missouri – be that good or bad. I feel my school and property taxes on my 3.5 acres are appropriate for what I receive from them. It doesn’t matter where you live, if you choose to invest in valuable real estate, expect to pay more taxes. Property that is considered valuable in one state is not necessarily considered valuable in another. You always have the option to sell to someone willing to pay the taxes.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Bill, that kidney stone bugging you, eh?

  11. Zephyr says:

    By the way, public school enrollment is likely to decline nationally due to the falling birth rate, reduced immigration, and aging of society.

  12. Paul says:

    Might make more sense to look at this at a district analysis rather than confusing it with a county wide analysis. Some upstate NY districts like a few around me are growing. Falling birth rates and all that matter – but what really seems to matter is who is moving into the areas and why. Saratoga may be growing because of the large influx of jobs created by projects like the Global Foundries development. Saratoga is a nice place to live if you are working there.

  13. roger dziengeleski says:

    This is about failed promises in the Adirondack Park, not politics or taxes. NYS and many of the advocacy groups, including Peter’s, promised additions to the Forest Preserve would result in economic improvements to the area as a result of increased recreation. Economic improvements would help sustain communities and schools in the Park. These promises haven’t materialized. Continuing to oppose snowmobile trails, give out parking tickets and discourage recreationists from coming to visit the high peaks is the same as putting up a keep out sign at the borders of the Park. Lets start working to attain the promise of the APA act and the dual goal of economic and environmental sustainability. It is time to attract more recreationists, create more jobs and take other positive steps in the Adirondacks, rather than to try and explain away why the promises of a robust recreational economy can’t be met.

  14. Weak tea. Peter, you know perfectly well that absolute figures don’t tell us much. The link you provided indicates that Hamilton County’s *percentage* change was the highest by a long shot statewide. We have now lost three of our seven schools – Raquette, Piseco and Inlet – and I fail to see how Long Lake can hold on for much longer. Lake Pleasant may follow it, leaving us with two schools operating well below their infrastructural capacity.

    Hamilton County is not some outlier. We cover a full 20% of the Park’s geography. We have had a small population since our founding, but we have never, until the last few decades, experienced this massive imbalance in our age cohorts, with so many of the very old and so few of the young.

    I will not blame the State entirely; this is about the vagaries of ecocapitalism, a bankrupt system that is failing both people and environment the world over. But let’s at least start the debate with the facts presented honestly, which means meaningfully.