Pandemic shakeup: Michigan public school enrollment slips, private schools gain

March 15, 2022, 10:43 AM

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Bridge Michigan documents an "extension of the often-divisive debates that exploded during the pandemic over whether to keep schools closed or open:"

Discontent over pandemic rules and virtual learning has prompted tens of thousands parents to pull their children from public schools in Michigan, and many have stuck with the decision even as Covid-19 fades. ...

Statewide, the drop in public school enrollment is 3.7 percent compared to 2019-20. The declines felt across the state, from urban to rural districts, from poor to wealthy ones. ... Some of the school districts that stayed remote half of the 2020-21 school year or longer recorded some of the biggest drops, including decreases in Flint (19 percent), Oak Park (18 percent), Garden City (12 percent) [and] Southfield (11 percent). ...

For private schools, where tuition can range from $3,000 to $30,000 a year, the dramatic changes in enrollment have been a boon after over a decade of falling enrollment that mirrored the state’s declining birth rate.

The online publication cites research by four scholars, including Kevin Stange, a University of Michigan associate professor of public policy who has studied the defection of students from public schools. "The Covid-19 pandemic drastically disrupted the functioning of U.S. public schools, potentially changing the relative appeal of alternatives such as homeschooling and private schools," says their study, published last fall by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Our results shed light on how families make schooling decisions and imply potential longer-run disruptions to public schools in the form of decreased enrollment and funding, changed composition of the student body.

"Things are not back to normal," Professor Stange told Bridge.

Read more:  Bridge Michigan

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