Minnesota private school enrollment highest in 10 years

It’s no secret that COVID-19 and school closures gave many parents a new perspective on the K-12 education their child was receiving.

Enrollment in Minnesota public schools has dropped for two consecutive years now, and private school enrollment in the state is at its highest since a decade ago, reports the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Private schools across the state now enroll just under 70,000 students — that’s the most since the 2012-2013 school year, when private school enrollment was about 71,000, according to state figures. Enrollment at nonpublic schools had been declining — except for a small bump in 2016 — for the past decade, until the pandemic started.

Frustration over school districts’ distance learning, mask mandates, and curricula concerns contributed to families looking elsewhere during the 2020 school year and have likely played into the enrollment increases.

Data collection by the Business Journal identified many of the biggest jumps in private school enrollment compared to pre-pandemic numbers in counties outside the Twin Cities metro area.

Benton County’s private school enrollment jumped 231 percent from 2019 to 2021 — 99 students to 328 students. Kittson, Wadena, Rock and Mille Lacs counties also experienced big increases in nonpublic K-12 enrollment. A handful of counties saw decreases in private school enrollment, including Blue Earth and Stearns.

But not all families interested in pursuing an alternative option to their neighborhood public school can do so, as Minnesota struggles to join numerous other states that have removed financial barriers preventing students from accessing these options.