School enrollments continue to drop

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Capital News Service
Oct. 2, 2009
LANSING — Public school enrollment has been decreasing since 2003-04 for a variety of reasons, including the downturn of the economy.
As a result, staffs have been downsized, class sizes increased and school buildings closed.
In Michigan, enrollment determines the amount the state provides in aid to local school districts.
In the last five years, public schools in have lost about 75,000 students, a 4.6 percent drop, according to Michigan State University Professor Emeritus Frederick Ignatovich, an expert in demographic analyses of educational systems.
However, during this period there was a slight increase in the state’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Ignatovich projects the loss of another 123,000 students in the next five years.
Since 1990, births have slowly declined to a new low in 2008 of 124,635, according to the Department of Community Health.
Those years of declining births correlate with the size of high school graduating classes 16 to 18 years later.
But national statistics are singing a different tune. There’s been a modest enrollment increase from kindergarten through eighth grade in the U.S.
There was a slight decrease between ninth and 12th grade nationally, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a 100,000-student drop in public school enrollments from the 2007-08 to 2008-09 school year.
Count day is important for public schools in Michigan. It’s when state funding is allocated to schools based on student attendance. This year it was Sept. 30.
The Department of Education won’t have official numbers until early next year but there are rough estimates reported by individual districts.
Department of Education press officer Janet Ellis said there are a variety of challenges facing the state and local districts. Ellis said decreased enrollments hurt revenues, which lead to eliminating services and schools, and whether the quality of education goes up or down.
Ignatovich said it makes a big difference when 100 students show up compared to 1,000 students. Free giveaways, celebrity appearances and extra credit are some of the tools used to lure students to class on count day.
© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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