Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The number of students in Utah public schools continued to grow in 2013 but at a slightly slower rate than previous years, according to data released Friday by the Utah State Office of Education.
There are 612,551 students enrolled in Utah public schools this fall, an increase of 11,556 students from fall 2012. That figure represents a growth of 2 percent since last year and down slightly from a 2.2 percent growth rate from 2011 to 2012.
Mark Peterson, spokesman for the Utah State Office of Education, said it is not clear whether the slowed growth rate suggests a new trend. Projections for next year's growth have been lessened, he said, and it is difficult to speculate what effect Utah's growing economy will have on the number of new families moving into the state.
Peterson also said that while the growth rate is lower than previous years, the new numbers do not contain any significant surprises.
"There's no earthquake scares in there other than the usual one out of five Utahns being a public school student," he said. "That's a hefty percentage of the population."
The growth in the minority student population similarly slowed compared with last year, but it continued to outpace the state's overall trend. Minority students now account for 23.5 percent of all students in Utah public schools, after adding 6,000 students, or 4.5 percent, since 2012.
In a positive sign for the economic state of Utah families, the 2013 enrollment data show 33.6 percent of students are identified as living in low-income households, down from 36.6 percent last year. That figure translates into a drop of more than 10,000 students.
Peterson said it is difficult to identify what triggered that drop by looking at state-level enrollment data. But he added that independent of the cause, it is good news for the state that fewer students are living in poverty.
Charter school enrollment grew by 8.2 percent, or 4,099 students, for a total of 54,900 students. With that growth, a little less than 9 percent of Utah's public school students are currently enrolled in charter schools.
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