Enrollment in Lake Mills schools dropped slightly this year according to the third Friday in September student count from the previous year, according to figures released late last week by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

The DPI reported Thursday enrollment in school districts across the state declined 3%. In Lake Mills, which this year has offered both in-person and virtual school options, the decline was 32 students.

Other area schools reported similar data to Lake Mills; Cambridge schools saw a loss of 12 students; Deerfield lost 37 students; Jefferson has 23 less students this year; Johnson Creek lost 80 students and Marshall saw a loss of 14 students. The larger school districts in the area—Fort Atkinson and Watertown lost 112 students and 279 students respectively. Waterloo was the only district to gain a student since last school year.

Lake Mills reported a total enrollment of 1,576 students in the district. Last school year the district gained 31 students the school year before it gained nine.

Wisconsin school districts, independent charter schools, and private school parental choice programs reported overall slowdowns or declines in enrollment, particularly in 4K. Districts also reported summer school participation declined by more than half between 2019 and 2020. The data published is unaudited and is based off of enrollment counts performed on Sept. 18, the third Friday of September, and reported to the DPI.

School district enrollment data is used to determine revenue limits, which, in combination with the general school aids, determine school boards’ maximum property tax levies. Enrollment figures are used to determine school tax levies and rates.

The student count data includes unduplicated headcounts and full-time equivalent membership. Headcount is the number of students enrolled for instruction in a given school or district on the count date. Membership is a full-time equivalent value used for school finance purposes, where students in preschool special education, 4K, and part-time kindergarten are counted as less than 1.0 FTE. Membership for school districts reflects residency, not enrollment; a student in the open enrollment program is included in the headcount for the district they attend, but the membership for the district where they reside. District membership also includes an addition of summer school FTE.

With the coronavirus pandemic, many parents have opted out of sending children to kindergarten. The DPI reported 25,232 fewer students were attending public school districts this fall than last year. There were 818,922 students enrolled in schools on Sept. 18, down 3% from September 2019. In comparison, from 2018 to 2019, there was a decline of 0.4%. The September 2020 district headcount was led by a decline of 15.8% in 4K and preschool special education. The kindergarten headcount declined 4.9%, while first through 12th grades —where Wisconsin’s mandatory school attendance laws apply — were down 1.9%.

Total school district enrollment for fall 2020, which includes summer and September FTE, was 809,104. The decline from fall 2019 to fall 2020 was 3.9%, with summer FTE down by 57.2% and September FTE by 2.6%.

As part of the 2019-2021 biennial budget, Wisconsin school districts received a $179 per member increase in revenue limits for the 2020-21 school year, and the per-member minimum for low-revenue districts was increased to $10,000. Students attending other school districts through open enrollment, independent charter schools, or private schools in parental choice programs can affect their resident school districts’ revenue limits and/or general state aids, but the specific details vary by student and program.

Revenue limits are based upon a three-year “rolling” average of September enrollment, plus 40% of summer FTE, where last year’s average (2017-18 through 2019-20) is compared to this year’s (2018-19 through 2020-21).

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