MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction today released information on fall student counts and school district revenue limits for the 2021-2022 school year.
Wisconsin school districts reported similar enrollments for fall 2021 as they did for fall 2020, reflecting the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data published is unaudited and is based off enrollment counts performed on Sept. 17, 2021, the third Friday of September, and reported to the DPI.
The student count data includes unduplicated(1) headcounts and membership full-time equivalent (FTE). Headcount is the number of students enrolled for instruction in a given school or district on the count date. Membership is a full-time equivalent value used for school finance purposes, where students in preschool special education, 4K, and part-time kindergarten are counted as less than 1.0 FTE. Membership for school districts reflects residency, not enrollment; a student in the open enrollment program is included in the headcount for the district they attend, but the membership for the district where they reside. District membership also includes an addition of summer school FTE(2). A full data file by school district is available on the DPI’s website at https://dpi.wi.gov/sfs/2017-2021-fall-pupil-count-data
Wisconsin’s total school district headcount for the third Friday of September 2021 was 814,101, a decline of 0.5 percent from September 2020. 4K and preschool special education headcounts rebounded with a 7.0 percent increase from last year, and kindergarten headcount increased slightly by 0.7 percent . First through 12th grades — where Wisconsin’s mandatory school attendance laws apply — were down 1.1 percent.
Total school district membership for fall 2021, which includes summer and September FTE, was 811,068, an increase of 0.3 percent from fall 2020. Summer FTE more than doubled.
Independent charter schools reported a total third Friday of September 2021 headcount of 10,691, an increase of 15.6 percent from September 2020. The previous increase, from 2019 to 2020, was 1.5 percent. The 4K/PK headcount was up by 18.3 percent and kindergarten by 15.8 percent, while first through 12th grades increased by 15.4 percent.
The state’s four private school parental choice programs(4) reported a combined third Friday of September 2021 headcount of 48,919. This was an increase of 6.6 percent over 2020. 4K headcount in the private school parental choice programs increased by 10.7 percent, kindergarten increased by 5.1 percent, and grades 1-12 were up by 6.5 percent.
A more complete picture of fall 2021 student enrollment will be available in January, as homeschool families and statewide private school enrollments have later reporting deadlines.
School district membership data are used to determine revenue limits, which, in combination with the general school aids certified today, determine school boards’ maximum property tax levies. As part of the 2021-2023 biennial budget, Wisconsin school districts received no per-member increase in revenue limits for both the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, and the per-member minimum for low-revenue districts remained $10,000. Students attending other school districts through open enrollment, independent charter schools, or private schools in parental choice programs can affect their resident school districts’ revenue limits and/or general state aids, but the specific details vary by student and program.(5)
Revenue limits are based upon a three-year “rolling” average of September membership, plus 40 percent of summer FTE, where last year’s average (2018-19 through 2020-21) is compared to this year’s (2019-20 through 2021-22). Revenue limit membership also includes students attending certain independent charter schools and the Wisconsin National Guard’s Challenge Academy at Fort McCoy.
** NOTE: The link to the data file and numbers in this release have now been updated. The original data file displayed the incorrect Third Friday of September school district headcounts for 2020 and 2021. The counts shown in this release included adjustments for Open Enrollment, part-time attendance, and other inter-district programs, which is a later stage in the pupil count process. The corrected data file includes the initial headcount data, as is shown for 2017, 2018, and 2019. The fall and revenue limit FTE data are correct.