The diversity of the student population in the Menomonee Falls School District is markedly increasing.
So much so, school administrators are opting not to add more students through the state’s Chapter 220 program next year.
The Chapter 220 program was created to promote racial balance in school districts throughout the metropolitan Milwaukee area. The district provides transportation for students outside the Falls school district to attend class in the district.
School leaders have typically opened several seats each year to students in the district through the racially based program. However, demographics in Menomonee Falls are changing, and the district is achieving a balance in student diversity through natural population trends in Menomonee Falls.
“We saw that there has been an increase in diversity across the system, but a greater increase at the elementary level,” said Director of Pupil Services Kathy Zarling. “It’s the recommendation to the board that we don’t offer 220 seats because of our own diversity.”
Zarling pointed to the growth in minority students at the elementary level as the most compelling evidence. Last year, minority students represented 21.9 percent of the students at the elementary level. Of that 21.9 percent, 16.8 percent were residents of the school district, and just 5.2 percent were from outside the district.MINORITY BREAKDOWN IN SDMF BY LEVEL 2011-12 vs. 2012-13 School Level % Minority 2011-12 % Minority 2012-13 Resident Non-Resident Resident Non-Resident Elementary Schools 16.8 5.2 18.8 5.3 North Middle School 14.1 6.8 14.4 5.4 Menomonee Falls High 13.7 8.7 14.1 8.2 District Total 15.1 6.7 16.2 6.3
Source: Menomonee Falls School District
However, this year that percentage has shifted significantly. Now, minority students represent 24.1 percent of the elementary school population. A total of 18.8 percent of that minority population is comprised by families in the district, and just 5.3 percent are from out of district. That represents a two-percentage point increase in resident minority students in one year.
The demographic trend in the school district is reflective of an overall population trend in the village as a whole. According to 2010 census data, the village’s Asian population expanded at the highest rate. In 2000, Asians represented 0.9 percent of Falls total population. In 2010, Asians represented 3.5 percent of the population totaling 1,250 people.
African American and Hispanic populations also grew significantly. African Americans accounted for 1.5 percent of the total village population in 2000, but now represent 3 percent totaling 1,062 individuals. The Hispanic population grew at a smaller rate, and 697 individuals represent 2 percent of the population; up from 1.2 percent in 2000.
For perspective, African American and Hispanic populations were a combined 0.9 percent of the total population in 1990.
As a policy, the district adds seats through Open Enrollment at the elementary school level. The logic is to acclimate students to the district at a young age, and let those students progress through the Falls system.
The Open Enrollment program differs from Chapter 220 in that transportation is not provided, and it is open to all families. Additionally, the district receives additional revenue through each student attending through Open Enrollment. The Chapter 220 program doesn’t increase revenue, but it does help lower the tax levy for property owners in Falls.
However, Zarling said the decision was not based on revenue but on the growing diversity occurring on its own in the school district. The School Board will begin its discussion on adding Open Enrollment seats in January.