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Wisconsin summer school enrollment rebounded in 2021, but not in Milwaukee

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Posted at 9:36 AM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 10:36:59-04

MILWAUKEE — The coronavirus pandemic caused a major plummet in summer school enrollment across Wisconsin. But in 2021, the enrollment numbers rebounded... for most.

A study from the Wisconsin Policy Forum looked at summer school enrollment in areas all across the state, including Eau Claire, the Green Bay area, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, and more.

What the group found was that enrollment plummeted for everyone in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and coronavirus restrictions. Many schools chose to only offer virtual summer schools. A year later, vaccines had been approved and cases were declining. That's when, for most, summer school enrollment rebounded.

The study shows 2021 enrollment surpassed that of 2020 by a landslide and was even higher than in 2019 in the Green Bay area. In fact, enrollment was up in 2021 for everywhere except Milwaukee, where enrollment actually declined from 2020.

Wisconsin Policy Forum's study spotlighted Milwaukee Public Schools in its research and found that part of the reason summer school enrollment hasn't rebounded could be because MPS switched to pass/fail classes and replaced some MPS-specific graduation requirements.

The study found that those changes could have led to fewer students needing to take summer school, resulting in low enrollment. COVID-19 uncertainty also remained high for some in Milwaukee which could lead to parents not enrolling their children in in-person courses.

According to the study, MPS is hopeful 2022 will be better with four more summer school sites, tutoring and acceleration opportunities, and specialty programs. Additionally, MPS is not currently seeking another graduation requirements waiver.

Wisconsin Policy Forum also looked at how enrollment changes have impacted funding for all schools. They found that summer school enrollment is used to calculate revenue limits for schools. Since enrollment numbers were so low in 2020, many schools probably saw a decrease in revenue limits.

Now that enrollment numbers are coming back, some schools may be stretched thin financially since they do not have the limit they once did.

"When the three-year average enrollment decreases, so do revenue limits. When enrollment increases, costs can rise but so can access to additional ongoing state and local funding," the study says.

You can read the full study report below.

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