Mar 12, 2024 - News

Des Moines Public Schools loses thousands of students to open enrollment

A bar chart in green and orange showing the out migration is higher than the in migration

A chart showing the out- vs in-migration of DMPS students at school buildings. The out- vs. in-migration is starting to narrow since 2021-22. Chart: DMPS and RSP

Des Moines Public Schools lost a net total of 2,351 students to open enrollment between the 2021-22 and 2023-24 school years, according to a January report by the district.

Why it matters: The loss hurts the district's budget, contributing to cuts and staff reductions.

State of play: Most open enrollments are occurring around the district's borders on the northwest and east sides, according to the report.

  • Those areas are close to neighboring suburban school districts, including Johnston, Saydel, Urbandale, Southeast Polk and Carlisle, says spokesperson Phil Roeder.

Zoom in: At the high school level, East had the most open enrollments out — 377 in the current school year. Families there also dealt with several traumatic events, including a fatal shooting and a deadly hit-and-run that killed a student in 2022.

  • In comparison, Roosevelt had the least — 151 students.

Reality check: The highest open enrollment occurred in 2021-22 when DMPS was still virtual in comparison to neighboring districts. Student migrations have narrowed since.

Between the lines: When the Legislature loosened the state's open enrollment rules in 2021, education advocates warned that urban districts like DMPS would have greater concentrations of low-income, students of color, as higher-income families left for suburban districts.

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