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K-12 schools attracting non-traditional students in order to boost revenue

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As enrollment continues to decline across Michigan, K-12 schools are picking up more non-traditional students to help bolster funding.

That’s according to a new report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Michigan uses a per-pupil funding method for schools, declining enrollment has meant fewer funds for schools - both public and charter.

Craig Theil is with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. He said some schools attracted homeschool and private school students to part time offerings in order to increase funding.

“What is significant about this is it has grown. Our estimates are that it has grown substantially in a short period of time.”

According to Theil, schools collectively received $140-million by attracting non-traditional students in the 2018-19 school year.

In 2011 that number was closer to $50-million. When those non-traditional students are paired with another method schools have used to boost funding, two-year kindergarten, the total amount being paid to schools rises to $260-million.

Schools aren’t paid full per-pupil amounts for the students they serve part time, only making a fraction of the full per-pupil amount.

But Theil said for the handful of public and charter schools using these methods to boost funding - it has been helpful.

“For those districts that are participating in our analysis shows that it has in some cases completely inverted their enrollment trend from negative to positive. It is a lifesaver.”

Theil says south eastern school districts are primarily using these methods to boost enrollment and funding.

Ultimately, Theil said there are only so many non-traditional students schools will be able to attract, so there is a limit to how much additional revenue school districts will be able to get.