The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recently released information on fall student counts and school district revenue limits for the 2021-2022 school year.
Wisconsin school districts reported similar enrollments for fall 2021 as they did for fall 2020, reflecting the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data published is unaudited and is based off enrollment counts performed on Sept. 17, 2021 — the third Friday of September, and reported to the DPI.
The student count data includes unduplicated headcounts and membership full-time equivalent (FTE). 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.
Wisconsin’s total school district headcount for the third Friday of September 2021 was 814,101, a decline of 0.5% from September 2020. The 4K and preschool special education headcounts rebounded with a 7% increase from last year, and kindergarten headcount increased slightly by 0.7% . First through 12th grades — where Wisconsin’s mandatory school attendance laws apply — were down 1.1%. Statewide numbers have declined in each of the last five years (the largest decline was 25,742 from 2019 to 2020).
Poynette’s numbers have slowly declined over the last five years, from 1,081 in 2017 to 1,012 to 2021. The loss of 16 from 2020 accounts for a 1.6% decrease.
Lodi has ebbed and flowed in each of the subsequent years since 2017. The count was 1,518 in 2017, then 1,495 in 2018, then 1,515 in 2019, and then 1,483 last year. The 2021 count was 1,494.
DeForest, 140 (4,018, highest in last 5 yrs)
The Madison Metropolitan School District count fell by 442 from that of 2020, a 1.7% decrease. The district has declined in each of the last four years, with a total count of 25,503. The state’s largest district, Milwaukee Public Schools, declined by 3,962, a 5.6% decrease — the district has declined by more than 5,000 over the last two years.
In the area, the Portage district’s count declined by 3%, and is the lowest it has been in the last five years. Baraboo’s district gained two this year, but had declined from 2018-20, down to 2,791. The Sauk Prairie district grew by 1.4%, but that’s after a loss of 3.8% from 2019 to 2020.
The Middleton-Cross Plains district fell 1.8% and has dropped its number by 301 in the last two years. The Waunakee district grew 2% in 2021, making up for the 1.7% it lost from 2019 to 2020. Like Poynette, the Columbus district has also declined in each of the last four years. The Rio district may have only decreased by 16, but because of it’s size, that equates to a 4.2% decline.
The DeForest Area School District saw its count increase by 140 (3.6%), and its counts now sits above 4,000 for the first time. After a loss of 12.7% from 2019 to 2020, the Pardeville district saw an increase of 14.2% for 2021, reverting back to its 2019 counterpart. The Sun Prairie district has declined in each of the last two years, including 0.4% this year.
Of the larger declines is the McFarland School District, where after a growth of 19.7% from 2019 to 2020, the district saw a decline of 14.8% for 2021.
Total school district membership for fall 2021, which includes summer and September FTE, was 811,068, an increase of 0.3% from fall 2020. Summer FTE more than doubled.
Independent charter schools reported a total third Friday of September 2021 headcount of 10,691, an increase of 15.6% from September 2020. The previous increase, from 2019 to 2020, was 1.5%. The 4K/PK headcount was up by 18.3% and kindergarten by 15.8%, while first through 12th grades increased by 15.4%.
School district membership data are used to determine revenue limits, which, in combination with the general school aids certified today, determine school boards’ maximum property tax levies. As part of the 2021-2023 biennial budget, Wisconsin school districts received no per-member increase in revenue limits for both the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, and the per-member minimum for low-revenue districts remained $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 membership, plus 40 percent of summer FTE, where last year’s average (2018-19 through 2020-21) is compared to this year’s (2019-20 through 2021-22). Revenue limit membership also includes students attending certain independent charter schools and the Wisconsin National Guard’s Challenge Academy at Fort McCoy.
Notes from DPI:
— Some students enrolled in independent charter schools or parental choice programs are added to their resident school districts’ memberships for finance purposes. District headcount and membership data does not include these students; they are in the charter/choice counts where they attend.
— Summer school is funded differently for school districts than in other types of publicly funded schools.
— Preschool special education applies only for public (district and independent charter) schools and is 0.8 percent of the total headcount.