If Assistant Superintendent Chris Fenton’s projections for the 2015-16 school year come to pass, the Grosse Pointe Public School System’s General Education student enrollment will fall to its lowest level since 1993.
That date is significant as it preceded the state’s landmark school funding overhaul, 1995’s Proposal A, among whose most significant characteristics is that district revenue is tied directly to student enrollment.
The GPPSS enjoyed the ride since Proposal A’s passage. In 1993, the General Education student enrollment was 7,680. It rose steadily from that time hitting a high water mark of 8,930 in 2005. But it’s been all down since then, reaching 7,914 this year and then a projected drop to 7,760 next year.
That drop from 8,930 t0 7,760, if it were to come to pass, represents an annual revenue loss of nearly $12 million since the GPPSS receives about $10,000 per pupil in revenue.
The only good news about that kind of drop is that it has been gradual and the district’s response to that kind of revenue loss has generally been staff level reduction. Historically, teaching staff reduction has been roughly proportional to student enrollment. Non-teaching staff reduction has been much more steep.
It is true that the GPPSS enrollment reduction is directionally consistent with Michigan population, but not as bad. From 2004 to 2013, Michigan’s student population has dropped about 12% while the GPPSS has dropped just over 6%. This student population drop has been a statewide phenomenon and was one of the big drivers for the growth in School of Choice programs – as districts competed with each other for a more scarce resource – students.
The GPPSS famously has not, and will not, be a school choice participant, but that factor alone cannot completely account for its drop in enrollment in contrast to other similar districts.
As the chart on the left shows (please click to enlarge), among the GPPSS, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Northville, Rochester and Troy Schools, Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield are the only two whose enrollment has dropped from 2004 to present.
I have highlighted the contrast to Birmingham before. In 2004, the GPPSS had 1,000 more students than Birmingham. Today Birmingham enrollment is greater than GPPSS. Birmingham has not relied on School of Choice to increase enrollment.
Bloomfield has been more like GPPSS, in fact far worse. Within the last few years, after a protracted and divisive battle, Bloomfield closed one of its two high schools.
This is the kind of issue that requires a great deal of analysis – and probably more than the district has undertaken. But at least among the statewide data and in contrast to Bloomfield and Birmingham Schools, we cannot fairly pin the GPPSS’ enrollment drop on any one thing – and probably not even on just the school system itself.
Yes, great schools can and do attract families. But of course the schools in Bloomfield are outstanding – and I generally think GPPSS are very good schools. Birmingham and Northville are examples of communities that are solving this riddle. The Grosse Pointes have some work to do.