Students continue to open enroll out of the Delavan-Darien and Beloit school districts in staggering numbers—and the losses are costly.
In the 2018-19 school year, Delavan-Darien recorded a loss of 541 students through open enrollment, which accounted for about $4.4 million in lost revenue.
Beloit lost 585 students, costing the district about $4.3 million in revenue.
Open enrollment penalized those districts far more than any others in Rock and Walworth counties in the last school year. Unsurprisingly, districts adjacent to Delavan-Darien and Beloit—Elkhorn and Beloit Turner—saw dramatic rises in open-enrolled students in the same period.
Beloit Turner gained 352 students, augmenting its budget by $2.65 million. Elkhorn’s student body grew by 325 students, pumping an additional $2.6 million into the district.
Beloit Turner’s open enrollment numbers have been climbing steadily for years.
In the 2009-10 school year, the district had a net gain of 48 students through open enrollment. That number jumped to 196 by the 2012-13 school year and 279 by 2016-17.
Next year, Beloit Turner’s financial boost will be so dramatic that the dollars it receives from open enrollment could exceed the money it collects from property taxpayers. That largely will depend on how discussions on the 2019-21 state budget shake out in the Legislature, said Brad Boll, the district’s director of business services.
Boll said the influx of open enrollment dollars has allowed Beloit Turner to address maintenance issues now and avoid letting them compound over time like other districts across the state.
It also has helped the district avoid floating an operational referendum to fund operations.
“That is 100% entirely because of the money we get from open enrollment,” Boll said.
More than 90% of the students open enrolling into Beloit Turner are from the Beloit School District, he said. Next school year, nonresidents are expected to make up 35% of the district’s overall student body.
Officials say it’s unknown why so many students leave Delavan-Darien and Beloit. Delavan-Darien officials for years have pointed to their state report card score, which is the highest of any school district in Walworth County.
Delavan-Darien Superintendent Jill Sorbie did not respond to a request for comment.
Nearly 160 Delavan-Darien students applied to enroll out of the district at the end of the 2017-18 school year, and about 80 students in 4-year-old kindergarten and kindergarten enrolled out of the district before classes started in the 2018-19 school year.
Over six years, Delavan-Darien has seen about a 16%drop in enrollment. Last school year, the district reported having 59 fewer students in 4-year-old kindergarten than graduating seniors in 2017-18.
In an email, Delavan-Darien Business Administrator Anthony Klein lauded the district for having fewer open enrollments than anticipated.
“We ended up better than expected,” Klein wrote. “… We are grateful for the parents who decided to stay with the district this year, and we are hoping to see continued positive momentum on this moving forward.”
In an effort to curtail falling enrollment, Delavan-Darien has partnered with The Learning Curve in Elkhorn to establish an educational day care center at Wileman Elementary.
Sorbie has said the program could attract new students to the district and act as a pipeline into 4-year-old kindergarten.