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(The Center Square) – Minnesota experienced a 2.36% drop in K-12 enrollment from 2019-2021, according to federal data published by the 74.

Total K-12 enrollment nationwide of about 51.1 million pupils during the 2019-20 school year means the public school system lost roughly 1.5 million students.

The worst states:

  • Mississippi and Vermont: 5.02% decline
  • Kentucky: 4.82% decline
  • Washington: 4.79% decline
  • New Hampshire: 4.69% decline
  • Maine: 4.35% decline

Minnesota ranked 23rd nationwide for losing the most students with a decline of 2.36%. Still, 17,000 pupils left public education.

Minnesota beat out many Midwest states in this category, including Michigan (-4.13), Kansas (-3.26), Missouri (-3.08), Wisconsin (-2.96), Ohio (-2.63).

However, Nebraska (-1.61%), North Dakota (-1.06%), and South Dakota (-.27%) beat out the Gopher State. Illinois didn’t submit data.

U.S. Census data says 4.6% of Minnesota students were home-schooled during the first weeks of the pandemic. By October 2020, that number jumped 5.1 percentage points to 9.7%.

U.S. Census Bureau researchers Casey Eggleston, a statistical mathematician, and Jason Fields, senior researcher for demographic programs, said the increase could be attributable to several reasons.

“Possible contributing factors include local homeschooling variation that predated the pandemic, local rates of coronavirus infections, and local decisions about how school is being conducted during the pandemic,” they wrote.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) reported a 2% drop in overall public school enrollment compared to the 2019-2020 academic year.

Minnesota lost roughly 17,000 public school students statewide as many families switched to private school or homeschooling or delayed preschool, MDE said.

The exodus from Minnesota public schools has a variety of factors. Many private schools closed in-person service for only a few months during the COVID-19 pandemic, while many public schools offered only online learning for the majority of the year. Other double-income parents were called back to in-person work, complicating remote-only schooling.

It’s unclear whether the student exodus will continue or whether students will return to public schools. A 2020 RAND survey of district leaders found that one in five schools have already adopted or plan to adopt virtual schooling post-pandemic.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.