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Report says declining Michigan population will lead to school closures

MChe Lee

A report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan finds the state's likely to lose 100,000 school-age youths in the next few decades.

According to the group's projections, Michigan’s school-age population will shrink from 1.58 million to 1.48 million between 2020 and 2050. The research council said this will likely continue a decades-long decline in public school enrollment in the state.

The population contraction, along with the impending expiration of federal educational COVID-relief funds, will create budget crunches for public school, the council said, and school districts will begin to struggle with unused school locations and shrinking resources.

Craig Thiel, the Citizens Research Council’s research director, said districts will be left with tough choices. “As school buildings become less populated, they become more expensive to operate, and school officials have to figure out how to live within the resources they have,” he said. “We fund schools more or less based on the number of students who attend those schools.”

Thiel suggested districts may be forced to make cuts to programs and locations as enrollment and resources recede. “The carrying costs of operating those underutilized buildings is going to get too much, and they're going to be faced with consolidating schools, consolidating grades, closing school buildings to just live within the resources that are available.”

The council suggested districts and communities start planning now to address the issue.

“The real challenge is going to be trying to right-size the district, not just for the moment but into the future,” Thiel said. “These decisions don't turn on a dime, they take some time to implement and having those conversations today about what the future looks like is important.”

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