California public and charter schools educate the vast majority of children, though at least half a million kids attend private schools.
Enrollment in private schools has been declining steadily for the last two decades. According to the California Department of Education, that figure has dropped from nearly 650,000 in 2000-2001 to 470,000 last school year, more than a 25% decrease.
Private schools have faced a series of pressures, including competition from charter schools, decreased religious affiliation among Californians, recessions and brand new suburban schools with attractive amenities, according to American School & University, a publication for education officials focused on the management of education facilities.
Because of these trends, private schools have become more segregated by income, especially as middle-income families find public options to avoid paying tuition. The loss of those middle-income students has primarily affected religious schools, which have seen their student populations wither over the last few decades, according to a 2018 study by Harvard and Stanford researchers.