State superintendent says thousands of public students no longer enrolled

Updated: Dec. 1, 2020 at 6:42 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama’s top education leader said about 7,000 students are unaccounted for, meaning they are no longer enrolled in public school and the department does not know where they went.

State Superintendent Eric Mackey said the students may be enrolled in a private school or home-schooled. They may also be at home.

“We also are pretty sure that part of the issue with some of them is that they’re either undocumented immigrants or they’re homeless,” Mackey said.

On top of that 7,000 not in school, about 3,000 fewer students enrolled in kindergarten this year compared to 2019, according to Mackey.

“The concern on my end is that some of them likely are not getting much educational benefit,” he said. “I believe that many of these students are going to come back next fall and they’re going to be behind.”

Gov. Kay Ivey sent out a statement Tuesday urging school systems to return to in-person learning instead of virtual learning.

“This will not only result in a critical learning loss for our students today but will also likely lead to an equally negative impact on the readiness of our workforce in years to come,” Ivey said.

Mackey said this drop in student enrollment could also cause financial problems for some school systems. That’s because a school’s funding is based on teacher units, which is based on how many students are enrolled right after Labor Day.

“You get money for your library based on how many teachers the school earns. You get money for copiers and instructional support based on how many teachers the school earns, and the number of teachers earned is based on enrollment,” he said. “So obviously, when enrollment goes down, the number of teachers go down.”

Mackey is working with the governor and lawmakers to make changes so a school’s funding won’t be affected by a drop in enrollment this year.

The state superintendent says he believes many of those 7,000 students will come back to school next semester.

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