K-12 Tax, Referendum and budget climate: Madison School District enrollment drops by more than 1,000 students

Elizabeth Beyer:

Enrollment in the Madison School District has dropped by more than 1,000 students for the 2020-2021 school, the district said Friday.

The decrease in enrollment is significant compared to the previous school year when the district lost only 33 students between 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.

The drop in enrollment could spell trouble for district funding. A portion of state school aid funding is doled out to districts per student, and district enrollment impacts how much money it receives in state equalization aid.

The district had planned for a 3% drop in enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after administering a survey to student families in July. Respondents to the survey who said they planned to leave the district indicated they would enroll students in homeschooling, transfer to a virtual school, transfer to another district or transfer to a private school.

Elementary and 4K grade levels accounted for 90% of the 2020-2021 school year decrease, according to a memo released by the district. Kindergarten and 4K enrollment accounted for a loss of 500 students, and there were “noticeable” decreases in 5th and 9th grades, the memo said.

Scott Girard:

Middle school enrollment dropped from 5,486 to 5,455 and high school decreased from 7,891 to 7,834.

More than half of the drop, 56%, is accounted for by students moving to another district in Wisconsin, according to the memo. Another 15% is students who moved out of state, with open enrollment, private school, international move, drop outs and homeschooling accounting for the rest.

[MMSD plans to pilot full-day 4K program next year]

A July 13-26 survey on reopening schools found that about 3% of respondents planned to not enroll their children in MMSD for the school year. District administrators then used that number to plan the budget. The drop of 1,006 students equals about 3.7%.