The Stickiness of Pandemic-Driven Disenrollment from Public Schools

Authors: Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Tareena Musaddiq, Joshua Goodman, & Kevin Stange

This reflects joint work with colleagues at the Education Policy Initiative at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy.

Project Summary

This study builds upon the authors’ prior research on enrollment shifts across school sectors during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and examines whether these patterns persisted into the subsequent school year. The authors use longitudinal student-level data from Michigan to track the school enrollment patterns of K-12 students before and during the first two years of the pandemic (2020-21 and 2021-22).

Key Findings

Using Michigan data, this study finds:

  • Public school exit rates rose and remained high for the first two years of the pandemic compared to prior years.
  • Students who left public schools for private schools in 2020-21 were less likely to return in 2021-22 than those who left for homeschooling.
  • Black, lower-income, and special education students were more likely to leave public schools in 2020-21 but also more likely to return the next year compared to White, higher-income, and general education students.

These findings show that the pandemic seems to have exacerbated an existing trend of public school disenrollment and that this heightened trend is likely to persist moving forward.

The Pandemic’s Effect on Demand for Public Schools, Homeschooling, and Private Schools

Project Resources

Policy Brief