Lower enrollment means lower funding for schools
St. Paul, Minn. (AP) — School enrollment keeps falling in Minnesota, and with it schools will have to do with fewer dollars from the state.
Educators attribute the lower numbers of students to a tough housing market, an aging population and a lower birth rate. Statewide, 90 percent of school districts should see declining enrollment by next year, according to a 2006 analysis by the state House of Representatives.
That could put even more budget stress on Minnesota schools, already likely to face pressures from the state of Minnesota's huge budget defict next year. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and lawmakers are expected to reduce revenue to Minnesota schools by about $22 million - on top of the budget deficits facing many schools themselves.
"If there are fewer students, the schools get fewer dollars," said Tony Taschner, spokesman for the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district, which anticipates a slight decline of about 1 percent next year to continue through at least the next five years.
Indeed, while enrollment declines are nothing new in many of Minnesota's smaller and more rural communities, larger districts look to join the trend in the next few years. In the Twin Cities metro area, 60 percent of districts expect dwindling enrollment - including some of the largest districts such as Anoka-Hennepin, Burnsville-Eagan-Savage and St. Paul.
The South Washington County school district, which increased by 2,000 students in the last decade, anticipates no gains in the next school year. In Lakeville, which has grown faster than most Minnesota cities the last few years, the student body is expected to jump by 22 students next year but drop the year after that - which would be the first enrollment decline there in 26 years.
In all, the number of students in Minnesota schools dropped by 2,368 students from 2007 to 2008, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.
Kim reis, student-information supervisor at Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, said district officials hope enrollment picks up if the housing market turns around and building restarts in the area.
"We have lots of areas that are intended to grow," Reis said.
But any economic turnaround won't come fast enough for many districts. Anoka-Hennepin officials are expecting a 1 percent enrollment decrease next year, and are planning at least $10 million in budget cuts.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)