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Public schools across state see 3% enrollment declines, increases continue at voucher schools

Public schools across state see 3% enrollment declines, increases continue at voucher schools

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RACINE — While enrollment in public schools across the state declined by 3% this school year, private schools participating in the state’s publicly-funded parental choice program continued to see increases in enrollment.

At Racine Unified, as well as across the state, the most significant decreases were in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, grades that students are not required to be enrolled in per state law.

“Parents did have the option of holding their students back this fall or choosing not to sign up for 4K, and obviously more did than in past years,” school financial services director Dan Bush said on a call with reporters Thursday morning.

He added that this was likely due to concerns about the format of lessons for young children amid the pandemic.

Racine Unified saw a 27.7% decrease in pre-kindergarten enrollment this fall, a 9.8% drop in kindergarten enrollment and a decrease for all other grades of 4.5% for a total enrollment decrease of 6.3%

Statewide for public schools there was a 15.8% decrease in prekindergarten enrollment, a 4.9% decrease in kindergarten enrollment and a 1.9% decrease in all other grades, for the 3% total decrease across the board.

Last year, the public school enrollment decline across the state was 0.4%.

In contrast to public schools, participation in Wisconsin’s four private voucher school choice program increased by 5.9% this year, although that was a smaller increase than last year’s 8.3%.

Increased participation in the voucher program included 26 additional schools and 2,577 students.

Voucher school 4K enrollment decreased by 3.5%, kindergarten enrollment increased by 5.1% and enrollment in all other grades increased by 6.7%.

Most private schools with a significant number of students enrolled in the Racine Parental Choice Program saw an increase in voucher student participation this year, according to information provided by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. However, most of those increases were relatively small.

EverGreen Academy saw an increase of eight voucher students to a total of 378; Lutheran High School increased by 37 voucher students to 224; Siena Catholic Schools increased by 17 voucher students to 1,246 and Hope Christian School increased by 36 voucher students.

In Racine, private schools returned to at least partial in-person lessons this fall, while Racine Unified began the school year with students learning virtually. Kenosha Unified, which began the school year with in-person and virtual options, saw a similar decline in enrollment.

Kenosha Unified School District saw a 28.7% decrease in prekindergarten enrollment, a 16% decline in kindergarten enrollment and a 4.9% decline in all other grades for a total decline of 7%.

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Reporter

Caitlin Sievers covers education in Racine County with a primary focus on Racine Unified School District. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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