The decline has been uneven across the state. About 160 school districts have won students, about 200 have lost students, and about 20 have even held out. That’s a slant from a 195-185-20 split in the previous two years.
The numbers have yet to be finalized, but “not only are we in the stadium, but I think we are in the infield,” said Paul Taylor, OPI budget analyst.
OPI does not report enrollments per student, but uses a number called Average Membership Number, or ANB; it is a measure that averages spring and fall enrollment, and adjusts for students who may be attending classes part-time.
The state funding formula uses a three-year ANB average to distribute the money to schools. This year’s decline, per ANB, is 3,331.
Billings Public Schools, Montana’s largest district with about 10% of the state’s students, previously reported a drop of more than 500 students that focused on K-5 grades.
This year, this decrease will cost the district approximately $ 365,000 compared to budget projections which assumed stable enrollments.
This illustrates the intention behind the three-year average – to “soften the landing” after enrollment declines, as Taylor put it. But if the drop in enrollment continues next year, this slowdown will fade. Billings predicts he could lose $ 2 million next school year if the students don’t come back.