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COVID-19 enrollment decline makes budget planning difficult for Madison schools
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COVID-19 enrollment decline makes budget planning difficult for Madison schools

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The Madison School District will look to January enrollment numbers and family surveys to better inform the School Board as it prepares to work on a 2021-22 budget, after a significant enrollment decrease this year due to COVID-19.

The district has never seen an enrollment projection like this year’s, said Andrew Statz, the district’s executive director of research accountability and data use.

Statz’s office expects the district to see a small increase in enrollment of about 74 students for the 2021-22 school year after 1,005 fewer enrolled in the district this year.

“Our primary assumption is that this COVID effect is really a one-time phenomenon,” Statz said of this year’s enrollment decline.

Enrollment projections are essential to the budget work, which the School Board will begin in January, as they are among the metrics used to set state-mandated revenue limits. Those projections also are used in determining how much per-pupil aid a school system is eligible to receive.

Student counts are calculated using rolling, three-year enrollment averages and are included in a formula to dole out the state’s largest pot of money, known as equalization aid. The drop in enrollment this year could affect how much money the district is eligible to receive in equalization aid.

“The enrollment projections impact both our anticipated revenue and our expenditures, including staffing allocations,” board member Cris Carusi said during a meeting Monday. “One of the challenges we will face as a board is ... we won’t actually have registration numbers for 4K and kindergarten before we’re making decisions about workbooks and allocations in the budget.”

Statz said his office will observe changes in enrollment as of January, and will administer a survey to district parents to determine a return rate of students to the district.

Moving away

The district’s chief financial officer, Kelly Ruppel, said she doesn’t expect the return rate to be high because of the number of families who switched districts instead of opting to home-school their students during the pandemic.

“So many of them were moved, it’s certainly an area of evidence that we wouldn’t have high rates of return,” Ruppel said.

The drop in enrollment in the Madison School District was also driven in part by parents opting out of sending their children to kindergarten — an age group not required to attend school like their older counterparts — during the pandemic.

Board member Ali Muldrow suggested a possible boom in early childhood enrollment could occur that could coincide with the district’s planned launch of full-day 4K classes in the 2021-22 school year.

A statewide hit

COVID-19 upended instruction in districts across Wisconsin, as the Department of Public Instruction noted a 3% drop in enrollment across the state in October.

Only 72 of Wisconsin’s 421 school districts saw a year-over-year increase in enrollment according to the fall tally. The McFarland School District, which hosts several online charter schools, saw the most growth by adding 1,021 students, or an increase of 20%.

The state’s five largest school districts — Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay and Racine — cumulatively lost 7,003 students, with Kenosha enrollment declining 7%, the steepest drop.

On July 22, 2020, the Cap Times will host a forum with the 76th Assembly District candidates. Candidates in the sprawling field are hoping to succeed outgoing Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor, who's leaving her seat to become a Dane County Circuit Court judge in the coming weeks. The 76th Assembly District is one of four open ones in the greater Madison area this election cycle, a reality that has drawn nearly two dozen contenders. The forum will bring together the following candidates: Dewey Bredeson, Heather Driscoll, Francesca Hong, Ali Maresh, Madison School Board member Nicki Vander Meulen, longtime Madison Ald. Marsha Rummel, and Tyrone Cratic Williams.

Check out more Campaign 2020 coverage:

#campaign2020 #wipolitics #wisconsineye

The results are in: See how Wisconsin voted in top state and local races


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