Declining Enrollment amidst ongoing Madison K-12 Tax & Spending Growth

Scott Girard:

The Madison Metropolitan School District can expect its recent enrollment losses to continue, according to new projections.

The School Board discussed projections from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Applied Population Lab Monday during an Instruction Work Group meeting. The reason for the drop is a mix of declining birth rates and increasing rates of students using open enrollment to attend school elsewhere.

The latter point gave board member Laura Simkin a glimmer of hope.

APL’s forecasting models show an average drop of 10% over the next five years, from 25,139 this year to 22,739 by the 2027-28 school year. The lowest projection would have the district at 21,668, while the most optimistic still has a decrease to 23,884.

In the 2018-19 school year, MMSD had 26,916 students, which was similar to the 27,028 it had five years prior. But the district has seen a significant dropoff since the COVID-19 pandemic, losing hundreds of students in each of 2020-21, 2021-22 and this year.

MMSD quantitative analyst Grady Brown pointed out that the district is not alone in its experience over the past few years, noting that the state experienced a 5% decline in public school enrollment from 2009-10 to 2020-21 and 3% decline from 2019-20 to 2020-21.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

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