Minnesota public kindergarten enrollment dropped 9% this school year

Minnesota public school enrollment, most notably in kindergarten, decreased in the 2020-21 school year compared to the year prior due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

MDE released the enrollment data for the current school year on Friday, which showed about a 2% drop in public school enrollment from the 2019-20 school year. The shift came largely from younger students with a 9% drop in public kindergarten enrollment.

St. Paul Public Schools saw a drop in kindergarten enrollment this school year by 221 students, more than 7% decrease. Overall enrollment was down more than a thousand students in all grades.

At Minneapolis Public Schools, kindergarten enrollment was down by 476 students, a 16% decline from last school year. Enrollment in all grades is off by nearly five and a half percent.

For Anoka-Hennepin Schools, the state’s largest school district, there are 521 fewer kindergarteners - a drop of 19%. In all the grades there are 1,300 fewer students, which is a 3.5% drop. 

According to MDE, due to COVID-19 families chose either to delay the start of kindergarten for their students or seek other options. Data showed nonpublic kindergarten options saw a 12.4% increase in enrollment in 2020-21 from 2019-20.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis oversees Catholic schools in 12 counties. Its enrollment data shows K through 12 enrollment grew by 1,100 students this fall. There was a 20 percent increase at the kindergarten level and a ten-percent increase in first and second grade.

Overall, MDE reported a 49.5% increase of students in home school. Also, MDE found the majority of the decline in public school enrollment came from white students, which decreased 3.7% from the past school year.

MDE officials say the decline in enrollment will lead to issues in school funding. The 2% decrease in public school enrollment across all grade levels amounts to about 17,000 students. The average public school student generates about $10,164 in general education revenue.

MDE voiced support for the provision in Gov. Tim Walz's proposed education budget which includes a one-time $25 million increase to the general fund to address declining enrollment due to the pandemic.