Measuring the impact of state student enrollment drops

School enrollment and state funding

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - School districts across the state are working to track down thousands of students who didn’t enroll this year.

The state superintendent is now saying close to 10,000 kids didn’t show up for class.

So if the students aren’t accounted for, what does this mean? Well, it’s a layered situation. It means some students aren’t making gains academically this year and districts are hoping they don’t see major cuts in the classroom in staffing, which would impact how many kids are in your child’s class.

The final student enrollment number is in -- and it’s both concerning and bigger than expected.

“We have about 9700 students fewer in the fall of 2020 than we had in the fall of 2019,” said State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey.

No district was spared from enrollment dips, including the largest district in our area. Jefferson County saw a drop of between 1,000 and 1,100.

A number Jefferson County’s Superintendent watches closely because district funding to serve your child is tied to student enrollment.

“For Jefferson County every 25 students you gain, that’s an extra teacher unit. Opposite of that - every 25 you lose, that’s a teacher unit we may lose,” said Dr. Walter Gonsoulin.

Based on the district calculation and initial numbers, that’s potentially 40 teaching units lost.

“We don’t want to end up in a situation where we would have to cut teacher units and we have students come back and we have overcrowded classrooms the very year we’re going to need as much intensive one to one instruction from teacher to student,” said Dr. Mackey.

Beyond money, leaders want students in the classroom now so they don’t slide academically.

So Jefferson County School leaders have started extensive measures that have helped recover over 30 percent of students.

The largest dip in enrollment is at the kindergarten level, and that’s not required in Alabama. But Jefferson County leaders say there were also dips in senior numbers, some opting to get jobs when the pandemic shut down school back in March.

The state superintendent said he’s working closely with lawmakers to develop a funding formula that wouldn’t penalize districts for enrollment drops so we won’t see things like teacher cuts and class sizes increase.

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