Wisconsin public schools missing students

Local News

Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Thousands of Wisconsin students may have fallen off the grid. The state’s public-school headcount dropped by 23 thousand between September 2019 and September 2020, leaving questions about what happened to those students.

Reporter Jason Calvi looks for answers.

It’s also a Wisconsin Senator’s question.

Senator Dale Kooyenga said, “Basically the response back from DPI was we won’t know the magnitude of the problem until next December, which the moment is now.”

Wisconsin public schools every September count their students. The numbers dipped by point four percent each year from 2017 to 2019 but from 2019 to 2020, the number dropped by nearly 2.9 percent, 23 thousand fewer students. Driving that a 15 percent drop in 4k and preschool special ed.

Bonnie O’keefe, Bellwether Education Partners said, “When faced with the choice of potentially remote kindergarten or remote pre-k, whereas in many places childcare centers or childcare options were open and serving children in person, I think a lot of parents may have chosen either to look after their children themselves at home, to send their child to a child care center.”)

Factoring just first through 12th grades, the cut was about two percent. Wisconsin shut down schools in March 2020.

Kris Keckler-Kenosha Unified School District said, “A small percentage of students that March 13 hit, and we did not hear from the rest of the school year.”

Researchers at Bellwether Education Partners this past fall estimated 3 million kids nationwide may have stopped receiving formal education. They estimate between 770 and roughly 20,000 Wisconsin kids were at risk.

“I think there may be students on the books, who aren’t necessarily getting an educational experience, who might be logging in once a week or less. Or minimally engaged,” said O’Keefe.

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