PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Numbers from the Arizona Department of Education show a huge amount of kids leaving public and charter schools. The Department of Education said enrollment dropped by 38-thousand students for the 2020/2021 school year compared to 2019/2020.

"The biggest reason why families have made the difficult decision to not enroll their students in our schools is due to fear of COVID-19 during the pandemic," said Kathy Hoffman, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Hoffman said about 40% of that 38K decline were kids in preschool and kindergarten. She says fewer kids in schools takes a huge toll on district budgets as they're funded on a per-student basis.

"It is very significant," said Hoffman. "It can be hundreds of millions of dollars for students, for having a large number of students who are unenrolled." So, where did those thousands of students go?

"I think in some cases it's homeschooling," said Hoffman. "Some kids in there could be more private tutoring types of options. It's possible that some of these students that we're considering missing could have moved outside Arizona."

This month, the state launched a Ready for School Arizona website in English and Spanish. It encourages families to re-enroll students and helps them through that process. Hoffman hopes the campaign gets more kids back in the classroom.

"I'm very concerned because we have no way of knowing what's the quality of education that they're receiving if they're outside our public school system," said Hoffman.

She said parents interested in re-enrollment can call the Hotline number at 602-542-7378.


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