Between 1995 and 2009, almost 61% of public school districts in Michigan experienced a decline in enrollment, and according to the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, schools may continue to face declining enrollment into 2012-13..
In some districts, enrollment losses are staggering. The Detroit Public School system has lost over half of its students in the past decade; in Highland Park, the loss is 65%. Flint and Pontiac have also seen enrollment decline by half. But it's not just the larger school districts that are feeling the sting; various rural and suburban districts are also experiencing major losses.
The state's crumbling economy is primarily to blame for the drop in enrollment. Michigan was the only state to lose population between 2000-2010; in the same decade, public schools suffered an 8% loss in enrollment. Every student lost costs public school districts a minimum of $6,846 in funding. Add to that the planned budget cuts of $300 in aid per student, and schools are left in less than savory positions. Many are cutting programs and classes to make up for the loss of funding. But, as demonstrated in a report by the Senate Fiscal Agency, because the students lost are from various grade levels, it is not necessarily possible to lay-off teachers or cut grade-specific programs. Because of this, some school districts are searching for teachers and staff that are qualified in multiple areas. But while the funding is being cut now, the rearrangement or downsizing of programs and staff takes time, creating major budget problems for districts.
And it's not just extra curricular programs that are being cut - the amount of actual school days are decreasing as well. Many districts are focusing primarily on minutes in class rather than full days, offering fewer school days as a budget cutting tool. In the 2008-09 school year, only six districts (out of 755) held the traditional 180 days of class.