The birthrate drop that started in 2008 — when the Great Recession forced families to reconsider creating more mouths to feed — is starting to impact Santa Barbara Unified School District. “We have entered a period of declining enrollment,” Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said at the district’s Board of Education meeting Tuesday night. According to a 40-page report penned by political scientist and former boardmember Lanny Ebenstein, from 2002 to 2008, there were 19,195 kids born in South Coast hospitals; from 2009 to 2017, the number dropped to 16,742, a decline of 12.8 percent.
With a combined projected 14 percent drop in elementary school enrollment for this school year and next, the district is looking to “adjust our staff accordingly,” Matsuoka said. Through 2030, according to Ebenstein’s report, the district is looking at an enrollment drop of more than 15 percent. The wildcard, added Matsuoka, will be family response to the nationwide political narrative as President Trump acts on his promise to deport undocumented immigrants. “We are worried that some of our families are going to leave this summer because they are worried about [having] a family divided.”