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Enrollment in Minnesota public schools declines 2% vs. last year

Feb 19, 2021 01:51PM ● By Editor
Photo: UE/Getty

From the Minnesota Department of Education - February 19, 2021

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) today released 2020-21 school year enrollment data for Minnesota’s schools. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, families across the state made choices that they believed were best for their students including delaying starting kindergarten for our younger learners and some considered nonpublic options. 

This has led to a roughly 2% decrease—or about 17,000 students—in public school enrollment between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. The per-pupil nature of the education funding formula means that a loss of student enrollment will impact the amount of funding schools receive to operate their schools and support student learning. 

On average, one student in Minnesota public schools generates roughly $10,164 in general education revenue. The decrease in enrollment continues to highlight the need for the provision in Governor Walz's proposed education budget that addresses pandemic enrollment loss.

“COVID-19 has already robbed our students of so many milestones that make school memorable,” said Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker. “Now, our schools are potentially facing a huge loss in funding and resources, which will mean schools faced with eliminating learning opportunities and experiences for our students, especially students who need them most. We have hope that our public school enrollment will rebound as Minnesota recovers from the pandemic. Until then, we will continue to do everything we can to ensure our public school systems are providing our students the education they need and deserve.”

The change in the number of students enrolled in Minnesota prekindergarten through grade 12 schools is driven primarily by younger students with a 9% drop in public kindergarten enrollment between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. Conversely, there was an increase in the number of younger students choosing nonpublic options, with a 12.4% increase in kindergarten enrollment between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. The most significant increase is seen in the number of students in home school—a 49.5% increase from last school year. Additionally, the decline in enrollment broken down by race and ethnicity shows that while most demographics held relatively steady with slight increases in enrollment over the 2019-20 school year, the vast majority of the decline in enrollment in public schools is seen in our white students. Statewide, white student enrollment saw a 3.7% decrease from the previous school year which translates to more than 20,000 students.

The Governor's Pandemic Enrollment Loss proposal is a one-time increase in general fund resources for declining enrollment revenue of $25 million for fiscal year (FY) 2021 school district and charter school aid entitlements to limit the impact of enrollment loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will increase general fund expenditures by $22.5 million in FY 2021 and by $2.5 million in FY 2022.

All enrollment data provided in the file for the 2020-21 school year is based on what enrollment counts looked like at Minnesota schools on October 1, 2020.

Enrollment data can be downloaded from MDE’s Data Center or accessed through the Minnesota Report Card.

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